I was nine when I met Joe and Brenda.
Joe was a handsome little man. Brenda was a pretty thing, but quite shy. They stuck close together, protecting one another, drawing comfort from the presence of someone familiar. They chatted quietly to each other, eyeing everything around them with a wary kind of concern. They didn’t have much to say at first. They acted as though they didn’t have much to do, either. They ignored all the playthings around them and instead talked to each other in those low murmurs, as though they were planning something special that nobody else could know about.
Joe’s head was a brilliant blue, and Brenda’s was green. They had the most intelligent eyes. Their discussions became more frequent and louder as they realized I wasn’t a threat, and soon they were chirping away at me, telling me things that I didn’t quite understand. We bought them a grand house, one with a beautiful facade, very old-fashioned and worldly. They showed their appreciation by flapping their wings in the broad space and skittering from one perch to another, their little hearts jumping with happy excitement.
They were parakeets, of course. And soon they were two of my best friends.
I spent hours with them, letting them out of their handsome cage to fly around the living room. They always came back to rest on my hand or shoulder, where they would then worry with my hair or rub their faces against my fingers. When it was time to go back in the cage, they hopped in eagerly, then snuggled together while I latched the door.
Years went on, and things changed, as all things do. When Brenda passed away after a long and decidedly happy life, Joe was distraught. He grieved the loss, hiding in a corner of the cage, eyeing all of us with sadness and at times, outright disdain. We all understood, and gave him special care. We missed her, too.
Pumpkin the cat
But then Pumpkin the Cat came around, a vivid little ball of fur, and Joe was interested. Soon they were regarding each other with wary curiosity, and shortly after that Pumpkin would sit next to the cage, sticking a paw against the bars while Joe chattered away at him without a care in the world. Natural enemies became friends.
The birdcage and the grand old house
When Joe passed away, the big cage sat idle. It eventually wound up in the basement. But one day when my own children were of the age to take care of a pet of their own, I came across the old grand house, and pulled it out of the dusty corner. I hauled it home, where I cleaned it up and prepared it for the new parakeets that would grace the perches.
Those parakeets became dear friends to my children. When the years went by and they went on to their great reward, the birdcage stood empty again. I offered it to my daughter, who took it to her own house a few years ago. It must have made quite an impression, because today she not only has two parakeets in the cage, but she also has more cages — out in her porch, where morning glories peek through the bars, and in the guest room, where lovely candles fill the empty spaces where the perches used to be.
Joe and Brenda lived in a lovely, versatile palace. They were lucky to be there, and I was lucky to have them.