It’s funny how whole portions of your memory can be hidden somewhere in that mysterious storehouse of brain cells until one brief image or sound releases them. Yesterday a friend sent me an email photo of a kitten playing and sleeping with a parakeet. My first thought was Gran’s bird would never do that! Gran’s bird…
Tweety was much more than a bird. He was a family member and quite a character. He had dominion over the whole house during the day, and only reluctantly slept in his cage at night. Gran’s house had a large back porch with a door, and then another door for the house itself, and no one ever used the front door, so Tweety was pretty secure. He loved to sit on lamps, doors, curtain rods, and shoulders, but his favorite perch was Gran’s dresser mirror. I think he liked to admire himself. Or perhaps he thought he saw a friend.
My mother wasn’t overly fond of Tweety. I think her biggest objection to him was his one talent: he could whistle that lurid whistle that says “you’re hot”, and then follow it with a screeching “pretty baby, pretty baby”. He startled many a visitor!
Tweety also surprised people when he came to the table and ate off Gran’s plate or drank out of her glass. She didn’t allow it very often, but it was a cute trick if we had company. The time he accidentally drank a little champagne at a birthday party was somewhat disturbing! Gran couldn’t put her hand out quickly enough to prevent his sipping, and then she was afraid he would die. Apparently though, birds can tolerate a quick sip of alcohol.
Tweety could have just stuck his head under the faucet and cooled his head until he felt better. He actually loved to do that. Gran would turn on the water to a steady stream and he would happily play and splash until she made him quit.
As he got older Tweety got cantankerous and became a biter. I can’t count the number of times he snapped my little fingers in his beak. He also regularly beat up the plastic companion bird that Gran bought to keep him company. And he flew around less and less. When Gran moved to a smaller house she kept him in his cage more often than not. He finally died at the ripe old age of 12. That really is old for a parakeet. We all cried, and I know Gran was lost without him for a while.
Thinking about Tweety brought back memories of many other birds. My grandfather kept a pet crow for a while. It was really frightening! I guess I never got used to seeing a bird that large sitting on someone’s hand. Mom had a pet bird when I was little. I remember that she walked outside once to tell Dad something and forgot that the bird was on her shoulder. There were a few frantic moments until she luckily made it back into the house without losing him. And we had a dozen or more parakeets in a huge homemade cage when we lived on the ranch in Highway City. I raised homing pigeons when I was in high school. I had two parakeets when we lived next door to Gran in Fresno. Later I raised white doves and finches. Now I feed the birds in my yard. I guess that makes a lot of sense when I think about growing up with Tweety. He’d be happy that I’m still a bird lover!