I wrote in a previous blog about when I was young, one thing that brought me solace was listening to the Turtle Doves cooing while I ate my breakfast outside early in the mornings. I believe this is where my love of birds came from. From the time I was in 2nd grade, I asked my parents for a bird. Not just any bird, a blue parakeet. I had read all the books at school about them, how to care for them, how to teach them tricks, and even how to get them to mimic words. For every birthday and every Christmas, I would ask for one and each year I would be disappointed.
It was not that my parents didn’t like birds or pets. It was just that I wanted one. My sister, who was 4 years older than me had already had 2 dogs, a hamster, 3 cats, and a guinea pig. She would be excited about them for a couple of weeks, then she would lose interest. At least until I paid attention to her pet! So, imagine my surprise when on my 10th birthday my dad took me to the pet store and told me to pick out my bird! I immediately found my blue parakeet and I watched in fascination as the young man grabbed him quickly and placed him gently in the box. We then picked out the cage and accessories and headed home.
The first thing my dad said to me was, “What are you going to name him?” I sat for a few minutes and then told him, “His name is RED!” I don’t ever remember my dad laughing so hard. Then he told me my mother didn’t know about me getting a bird, so I needed to be prepared. Let us just say my mother was less than thrilled and my sister threw a fit and leave it at that.
My mother hated the bird. While I was at school, she would leave the cage door open and let him fly all over the house. She would even leave the front door open in hopes that he would fly away. Thankfully, he never did. I would rush home every day and spend all my spare time teaching him “tricks”. He would jump on my finger, sit on my shoulder as I walked around the house, and I taught him to whistle. Before bed, each night I would cover his cage and repeat “Red’s a pretty bird” over and over. It took him a couple of months. but he finally started saying it. I actually taught him about 5 different phrases. The one thing I didn’t teach him was a love for music. That came naturally. Most days I would spend an hour playing my clarinet. I loved it and I was good at it. I was first chair, first clarinet all through school. Red would fly out of his cage and sit on the end of the instrument and bob his head with the music. He would bend forward and look up into the clarinet like he was trying to see where the sound came from. I loved that bird!
When I was 12 years old we moved to Missouri. We loaded up our ’55 two-toned, gray, and pink, Chevy Bel-Aire, and headed off. About 3 hours after crossing into New Mexico we were driving down a steep mountain road when my dad lost control of the car. The U-Haul we were towing started veering back and forth making the car veer in the opposite direction. My mother was hysterical, and my sister was in full panic mode. I just grabbed the birdcage from the middle of the seat and hugged it tightly to me. I do not know what happened but the next thing I knew I was waking up and we were sitting by the side of the road extremely close to the edge of a cliff. The birdcage had totally collapsed, and I could not find Red. I started to cry, then I felt him light on my shoulder. I was so relieved. I reassembled the cage the best I could and put him in it.
We lived in Missouri for almost 2 years. My mother still left the cage door and the front door open in hopes of getting rid of the bird. One day after school I put my clarinet together to practice for an upcoming school program. I got everything set up and I started to play. Red took his usual place on the end of the instrument. After a few minutes, my mother asked me to play a hymn from the hymnal. She got up and went to the bookshelf and got the hymnal then came back and sat on the couch. I found a song and I started to play. I kept glancing around waiting for Red to take his place at the end of the clarinet again, but he never did. I started to get worried when I saw that when my mother had gone to get the hymnal, she also opened the front door. I jumped up knocking over my music stand and yelling “Red, Red!” My mother got up to help look and that is when I saw him. He was laying on the couch with his neck broken!! My mother had “accidentally” sat on him, killing him. I cried so loud and for so long the neighbors across the street and next door came over to see what was wrong. They thought there had been a death in the family, and they were right. I went to my room and got a shoebox and I slowly lifted his lifeless little body off the couch. I put him in the box and carried him out to the back yard. I got a shovel, dug a hole, said a prayer, and buried Red. I then marched inside, gathered my things, and locked myself in my room. When my dad got home from work, I ran to him jumping in his arms and crying on his shoulder. He had me get in his truck and we went to the hardware store and he bought a small section of a white picket fence that was made for a garden. He then bought two small white boards and a tiny can of red paint. When we got home, he helped me put the fence around the grave and he made a cross with the two boards. He found a small paintbrush and had me write “Red” on the cross. This little ceremony helped to calm me down. Until the day we moved to California I would pick flowers (except in the winter) and placed them over him.
I don’t know for sure if my mother sat on him on purpose or if it was an accident. I do know she never apologized or acted like she cared. The day after this occurred I came home from school to find the cage, food, toys, and all the accessories that belonged to him were gone.
I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.