We brought him home on a warm July afternoon the summer my youngest son was 12.
Daniel had asked for a pet nearly a year earlier on a day when all his homework was done and his room as neat as a pin.
Mind you, we had had a long line of pets over the years in Wappingers as three boys grew into men.
A fat rabbit, a Flemish Giant, named Rickery Zac, but we called him Rick.
Then a king sized dog, a Rhodesian Ridgeback mix named Max, whose eyes behind bars at a shelter made my heart melt. He regularly pulled out my right shoulder when he took me for a walk; my chiropractor loved that dog!
And then aquariums full, one with tropical fish. The other with goldfish that grew to the size of small trout!
When they had all passed, we got a lone Betta. Blue. We named him Jaws. For three years he swam in a tiny bowl on the kitchen counter.
And then Mom rested!
But my youngest son was gently insistent. So I gave him an assignment: read a book on parakeets (his pet of choice), write a one page report on all he would need to know to be a good bird owner, get his pesky math grade up and save enough money to buy the bird.
And then he went silent. And I let it lie. Until about eight months later with grade improved, report on my desk and money in his bank, he asked:
“Can I get a bird now, Mom?”
How could I say no.
So off we went to a wonderful little family owned shop, appropriately called The Bird Cage in Hyde Park. As soon as we walked in the door, a bunch of birds greeted us with sweet, sweet song. The parakeets were just seven weeks old, hand fed and raised with a lot of love.
They let Dan pick the one he wanted. And what a pick he made.
We named him Baby.
The best pet we have ever known, he was capable of turning teenage male hearts to mush and wrapping his tiny talon around this mama’s heart. The first night we brought him home, he literally slept on my chest for hours till we put him back in his cage for sweet dreams.
The baby of our family, he was fussed over by big boys, and was my constant companion when the boys were out, especially as I composed at my computer.
He would sit on my hand or on my head and if too much time went by without my talking to him and loving on him he would bend over my forehead and grab the nose piece of my glasses with his tiny beak, lifting and dropping it until I stopped what I was doing and gave him kisses.
And what a kisser he was.
We would hold him on our finger and say “kisses” and he would pucker up and plant a teeny peck on our lips.
A beauty with blue and white feathers, he was a smartie too with a vocabulary of at least a dozen words and even one sentence.
“Baby’s a good boy, mama says.”
I would repeat that to him over and over, not trying to teach him, but just because he was.
We kept him caged only at night or if we were out because I couldn’t bear to see him locked up for hours. During the day he hung out with us wherever the action was.
I got frightened for his safety, though, when my sons and their teenage friends — who all doted on him too — would start rough housing. I would get Baby on my finger in an attempt to whisk him to safety in another room but he would always fly off and right back into the ruckus, perched on one and then another young man’s shoulder. He really seemed to enjoy being one of the guys.
Boys will be boys I guess, and as a single mom for years, it was only by the grace of God that I survived all that testosterone! Even a tiny bird’s!
Baby was clever and funny, and at times he seemed to enjoy faking us out.
He would fly off somewhere in the house and we wouldn’t be able to find him, although he was usually in plain site. He would go into silent stealth mode and we would go through the house searching each room over and over, sweetly calling to him.
He turned up in some of the craziest places. And if a bird could smirk, he definitely did.
But I think that the call of the wild always called to his heart.
During the five years he lived with us he perched on the windowsill as if gazing longingly to be free, soaring the skies. When he heard birds chirping outdoors he would answer back to them.
And then one day, totally out of character since he always acted afraid when the door opened, he flew out the front door, across the street and high into the late afternoon sky.
We went flying out the front door too, calling after him to come back. But he caught the wind under his wings and for the first time in his life was doing what God created him to do.
Our neighbors joined us in searching for him and lamented his loss with us. We were heartbroken. All four of us cried that night, and me, well I cried for the entire next week on my drive home from work.
Baby was family, just like your precious pet.
He was our sweet baby and we lost something of great value that night. All we could do was grieve the loss and then let him go, wish him well and thank God for all the moments we shared and all the memories we made.
Baby was our gift from God who brightened many days in a house down one parent, his silly antics often making us laugh.
He was the sweetest pet that ever captured our hearts and he holds them still…