Tweeting, Circa 1955

Our Denver neighbors have lived in the same house since it was built in 1972. They may or may not have been newlyweds when they moved. I’ve never asked. They are roughly our age, give or take a few years. They have no children. What they do have, however, is birds.

Big birds. Parrots and Cockatiels and such. (Don’t worry; their big birds aren’t yellow and very tall and talk in a child’s voice.)Two or three big birds. They walk around the house with one of the birds on his or her shoulder and talk to it like a child. I don’t know if they would prefer a dog or cat but one or both are allergic? What I do know is that they treat their birds much like dog owners treat their dogs. I don’t question or begrudge their love for these birds. I just don’t share their emotion.

When I was in my formative years, we had birds. We had two parakeets — a blue one and a green one. Their names were Dobie and Zelda. If you — like me — were alive when the dinosaurs walked the earth, you might recognize that these two birds were named after lead characters in the 1950s comedy The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. Dobie was a typical teenaged boy trying to find a girlfriend and Zelda was the unattractive Girl Next Door who wanted him to choose her.

Tiny Tears

One day Jen sent me a text message in which she asked Do you remember our two parakeets Dobie and Thelma? I texted her right back that I certainly remembered them, but that the female was not Thelma, but Zelda. Wow, she responded. I always thought her name was Thelma. I am certain Zelda didn’t mind being mislabeled because 1) We actually had no idea if Zelda was male or female; s/he might have been more confused than angry; and 2) Birds have very small brains and the likelihood of hurt feelings is negligible. As for Jen, she was only 6 years old when the Dobie Gillis television show went off the air, so she was probably more concerned about why her Tiny Tears dolls wasn’t properly shedding the tiny tears for which she was renowned.

Bill’s family, too, had pet birds at one time. Having bird pets must have been a post-World War II thing. Bill’s sister is a mere 15 months older than Bill, and he took every opportunity to torture her. She, for her part, never quite forgave him for being born. As a young girl, she developed a fear of birds — a medically recognized fear called ornithophobia. When they were in the neighborhood of 10 or so, Bill would take the bird out of its cage and chase his sister around the house with the bird. I’m not sure if that was a cause or an effect of her fear, but I have my suspicions.

The funniest pet bird story comes from my sister Bec’s family. When her kids were in their teenaged years, she and her husband had love birds. They loved those birds (again, a phenomenon I can’t quite understand). One weekend when they were out of town, their son Erik had a party. (A shocker, I know, that a teenager would have a party when the parents are out of town.) At some point, one of his friends let the birds out of the cage. (It must seem funnier when you’re 16 and drunk.) The birds flew around until such time as their cocker spaniel opened his mouth and snapped one of the love birds inside. Erik was frantic. You might be able to clean up a party mess, but it’s harder to convince your parents they’ve always only had one bird. Oh, plus his mom loved her birds. Erik chased down the dog, grabbed her by the neck and pried open her jaws. The bird flew out to safety. The story wasn’t told to his parents until many years later.

Loving your pet birds just shows what a connection we all have to nature. I’ll take a dog any day of the week. But I sure do enjoy watching the birds from our patio window.

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