When I was wee and lived in a big square red-brick house flanked by fir trees with my mom, grandma and cousin-uncle, I had a pet bird. When I was even more wee and lived in a house I don't remember with my mom and maybe other people and/or pets and definitely some Floridian wildlife like lizards and bugs, I had that same pet bird. A parakeet, to be exact, the aptly named Birdie, he'd made the long trip up to Michigan from Florida with my mom and myself, along with his furry brethren, a hamster aptly named Rodie (short for Rodent. I was a very imaginative child who later grew up to name a litter of kittens Mouse (he was grey), Gingerbread (she was ginger-coloured), Patch (he was black and white patched) and Harlequin (he was a tux cat). I think/hope my ability in naming pets and creatures has matured as I have). As far as I can remember, Birdie was your average, garden-variety parakeet, bluey-greeny-whitey-yellowy with a beak, two eyes, two legs with assorted talons and suchlike. He was my Easter present, purchased with money sent from my Michigoose grandmother, when I was a tiny smooshy baby-type creature, roughly a year and a half old. What a gift!
He was kind of a jerk.
Birdie didn't really like anyone. Not even me, even though I was his 'mom' (or as much of one as a six-year-old girl can be). So when he started acted friendly, after about five years of being a dick, we knew the jig was up. Birdies just don't make that kind of change - they don't undergo any life-changing breakups, or mid-life crises, or anything of the sort. They're birdies, dig? He perched on my shoulder, he cooed, he let himself be petted and picked up, for about a couple of days.
And then he died.
According to Mom, I was relatively fact-of-life about this. Stoic, reserved, but understanding. Rodie had yet to perish, and I'd never before intimately dealt with death*. I insisted on a funeral and prepared for the interment myself: a shoebox lined with soft things, and Birdie set serenely in the midst of softness and quiet. As I gathered my family around the big magnolia tree in the back, staring down into the hole in the earth we'd dug for Mr. Birdie Parakeet, I started my eulogy.
"This bird has died," it started. I don't remember the bulk of it, but according to sources, it was very informative, very matter-of-fact, and very ... inventive. I'd witnessed only one funeral prior to this, for my great-uncle and great-aunt's son, but didn't process much of it other than the following details that I inserted into my soliloquy:
"And who's gonna play the music? ME." Even though I was terribly unskilled at any sort of musical instrument, I must've remembered an organist playing at Mark's funeral, and posited (incorrectly) that someone close to the deceased was required to 'play the music,' as it were.
"And then we are going to go to Cathy's or the Golden Duckling." Polish people, we love to eat. We are a hearty kind. We eat to celebrate birth, death, and all the other points on the life spectrum. Visits to such establishments as the Golden Duckling were strictly reserved for special occasions: funerals, weddings, communions, paydays. Cathy's was a little less special; I seem to remember having cornflakes there on more than one occasion. But that might've been because I was a picky child and refused to have anything more sophisticated or appropriate.
Somewhere, somewhere, there is a tape of this, as my grandmother found it prudent to record it for posterity. This is a sore subject for me, as my mom takes every opportunity to ridicule me for my solemn statements about avian death, even going so far as to threaten to play it for my future husband, so he knows what kind of ridiculously cute children we will have someday. Wait, that's not a bad thing.
Well, we had to have such a ceremony yesterday. Percival E. Starling did not make it through the night, and though I'm beating myself up for not taking him home overnight (though most accounts say that fledglings will be okay through the night without food, and I did leave a little bowl of food as well as the food straws if he felt so inclined as to have a bit of a nosh in the night), Mom insists that he fell from those great heights and had unknowable internal injuries. I sure hope so. I'd hate to think that I'm a terrible mother who will end up killing her kids with negligence.
To date, my ratio is not good. I've only four living pets right now, two of whom live with my mom, so they aren't even really mine (Hi Mabel Pauline Cat! Hi Professor Eido Baby Kitty Cat!). Franklin George the exuberant pit bull and Gabby Leigh the uhm, opinionated redheaded Selle Francais x TB mare are going strong, at three and five years. Molly lived to the corgi-esque, ripe old age of fifteen, and my old cat Mr. Kitty, nee Darkwing Duck, nee Velveeta, lived to a not-entirely-unrespectable-for-an-unfixed-tomcat (I know, I know) eleven years.
But amongst those big pets there has been a menagerie of smallish rodents (hamsters, gerbils, an unfortunate baby barn mouse), larger rodents (guinea pigs), a turtle**, a few zebra finches, two more parakeets post-Birdie, innumerable fish, and now a baby starling. All have met their demise under my care.
I hope this doesn't mean I'll be a bad mother. If anything, I hope it means I would have been a bad mother at the ages of six-twelve, so I'm really glad I didn't have any serious boyfriends or marriage proposals at those ages.
I'm sorry I failed you, Mr. Percival E. Starling. I hope you had a fun time with me that one day. Rest in Peace! <3
*I am MUCH more emotionally unstable and nervous about it now. Frankly, death, whether it's my own or someone/something else's, terrifies me.
**Mr. Tuttle the Turtle's death was NOT my fault, and technically his life did not expire under my care. He was stolen from his backyard habitat by our very white trash neighbors, who then kept him in a beverage cooler for a few days until he died, a fact I didn't discover till I found him there, belly up, whilst snooping around. What a terrible way to discover that your neighbors are horrible human beings - but sadly this was not the last demonstration of this.
For once, I didn't steal these photos from The Internets™, they're all from a trip to the cemetery that Sharon and I took in April. More from that day here, if it should please you to see them (i.e., you are bored.)