Bay's Travel Blog

I don't travel much any more. Resist!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A Happy Ending for Every Sad Tale

I believe in happy endings. I don't like books or movies with sad endings. I know, I could never be Italian. And although I love opera, I have mentally re-written practically every tragedy so that the heroine doesn't die but instead tap-dances off into the sunset with the man of her dreams. Romeo & Juliet? They eloped to Cancun and started a very successful spiced plum stand on the beach. Julius Caesar? He eluded assassination by taking in a matinee at the cineplex ("Medea's Aegean Sea Dance Party III"), and quit his role as emperor to pursue his lifelong goal of becoming a Solid Marble dancer.

If I were to write "Citizen Kane," it would end with the reporter finding a Hello Kitty diary in Charles Foster Kane's bedstand. "Dear Diary," wrote the media mogul, "I wish I hadn't lost my sled named Rosebud. Maybe I would have been President if I had just kept track of that sled. Dad was a jerk. I guess that's why I was such a pompous doofus for so long. Also, I think I'm getting fat -- no more double mocha lattes at Starbucks! Love, Your BFF, Chuck."

See, now, *that's* the way a story should end.

Once upon a time, 8 and a half years ago, on a cold February Saturday afternoon, I set out in my brother-in-law's Chevy van for New Jersey. Now, you're asking yourself why anyone in her right mind would borrow a huge Chevy van for a solitary roadtrip, aren't you? And if you're Southern, you're wondering why any Southerner would head north in February. There's a simple reason for that trip, one which I've gone over in my head many, many times since then.

I went to New Jersey to adopt a bird.

That bird was a two-year-old yellow-naped Amazon named Cosmo, and he was being put up for adoption by a couple that had raised him with so much love that he actually said, "I love you," every night when he went to his cage. The only reason they were giving him up was because they were expecting their first human baby, and they knew that yellow-naped Amazons could be very bitey. Also, they had a cockatoo named Max, and cockatoos are easily spoiled and easily jealous of human babies. They knew they had to downsize their parrot family to make room for more humans, and Cosmo, as the newest addition, was the one who had to go.

I drove all the way to New Jersey through snow, ice, sleet, and wind. And I'll never forget how Cosmo eyed me suspiciously when I came into his home and gathered up all his things. I never even touched him before we left. His owner gave him a last peanut and barely kept from crying as I drove away. I knew that I was taking on an enormous responsibility. And I was so eager to begin.

Parrots like Cosmo can live 70 or 80 years. Why, Winston Churchill's macaw was still going strong the last I heard, and still saying things that Churchill taught him. Besides living a long, long time, parrots bond with their flocks and their mates, and they are so smart that when someone they love dies, they mourn the loss. For that reason, they are not easily adopted by strangers late in life. If one owns a parrot, one must also make provisions for that bird when one dies.

But yellow-naped Amazons are complex birds. Of all the Amazon varieties, they are the most skilled and talented mimics. They learn vast vocabularies and are the most delightful performers of song and speech. However, yellow-napes are also the most prone to violence, and a male yellow-nape in adolescence is notoriously prone to biting viciously. As a result, many adolescent yellow-napes are abandoned, sold, set free, surrendered, or abused -- at just the most vulnerable point in their lives.

I knew all of this when I drove to New Jersey that frigid February. And still I was eager to begin my life with Cosmo.

Our first day at home was a pure joy from start to finish. Even though I had been warned that he didn't like women, he stepped up for me the moment he emerged from his travel case. And we have gotten along like that ever since... except, of course, when he was going through puberty and tried to shred the flesh from my arms. Those months were rough, but we got through them. Together.

From a very simple, preschool vocabulary, Cosmo has progressed to picking up many, many things from us, including my laughter and Wesley's call for Woodrow. He sings "I'm Forever Blowin' Bubbles" from start to finish, most of "Let's Go Fly A Kite," and he can hold a tune on our version of "Bingo," which we sing substituting Cosmo's name. "There was a bird who was so green, and Cosmo was his name-o, C-O-S-M-O,...." If Cosmo feels like singing with a song he doesn't know, he's inclined to just yell, "O! E! O! E! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!" He learned to play peep-eye with not just us, but also my sister's African grey Noah.

I mean -- this bird is completely a member of our family. Forever. When I go on vacation, I always find an excuse to seek out parrots and talk to them just because I'm missing Cosmo.

So when he flew away Friday afternoon and disappeared completely by Sunday morning, he took a piece of my heart with him. A big chunk of it. And while I tried to keep things light on this blog, I cried for so long in real life that I actually couldn't catch my breath and started hiccuping.

More than once.

One night turned into two; two nights turned into three. And three nights turned into an agonizing, torturous four nights in the wild.

We did everything you're supposed to do, and still Cosmo was missing. My worst fears were dogs, hawks, cars, trains, and children who throw rocks. And if you try to tell me that most children don't throw rocks, I'll tell you that 95% of my third grade class threw rocks at *me*. Including those children who called themselves my friends when we weren't at school. I was scared to death that Cosmo would land in front of any one of these threats to his life, and that I would never know what happened to him.

I didn't give up. I couldn't. I put up more flyers with each passing day. I walked so much around town, in daylight and at night, calling and whistling and listening, that my feet and legs are sore. I wore blisters on my toes in shoes that are broken in. Practically every minute of every day has been spent working on finding Cosmo, and if I couldn't find him personally, I had to make sure everyone in a 50-mile radius knew that a parrot missing and his owner wanted him back desperately. Every night was an exercise in pointlessly trying to sleep, staring at the ceiling and wondering what Cosmo was doing, and then going outside to walk around town some more.

We had thunderstorms here Monday afternoon, and I was nearly frantic trying to find Cosmo during and after those storms. I was just sure I would find him shivering and wet in a yard. But I didn't. And I was really starting to think that at this point, the only way I would find him would be if a stranger called to tell me that they'd found a strange bird in their yard.

Tuesday morning dawned warm and uncertain. I got up, started the coffee, and walked my street and alley before it was ready. Then I got a cup of that coffee, got in the car, and drove around town at 8 mph, calling and listening. Back home, Emily had painted more flyers, and we went out around noon to put them up. I retired to the porch around 2:00. One thing I know is that Cosmo is not very active on a hot afternoon. Our air conditioner was fixed Saturday, but I had gotten into the habit of staying outside *just in case*. Wesley joined me when he woke up (he's working nights this week), and we talked a little about Cosmo. I almost cried, but I had gotten to the point that I didn't have many more tears to shed.

I read my book; Wesley worked the crossword puzzle and the Jumble.

Emily went to the library and returned with a friend. Jordan is ten and has very white teeth. We talked a bit about Cosmo, then he and Woodrow got into a water pistol battle that was threatening to spread. At about 5:15, I asked Wesley to go to the convenience store to get me a Coke 2. Wesley was about to leave for work, anyway, so he got in his truck and drove off, reminding the boys not to squirt the pistols in the house.

About two minutes after Wesley drove away, Emily, Woodrow, and Jordan were shooting each other with water and shouting, when I heard something -- *something* -- that made me drop my book and stand up on the porch. Just as I started for the front steps, Emily stopped in mid-stride and said, "I think I heard Cosmo!"

For a millisecond, the boys were quiet, and I was quiet, and Emily was quiet, and we heard it again -- "Awwwwp!" The sound came from our bit of yard across the street, from our giant crepe myrtle bushes over there. We were all running. My heart was pounding in my ears, and I was shouting above the din, "Cosmo! Cosmo! Say something, sweetheart!!!"

The boys reached the crepe myrtles before I did, and I stopped a few feet before I ran into them, trying to listen and hoping that I wasn't hearing things. "Where is he, where are you, Cosmo?" and I listened, but before he could utter another sound, Woodrow was yelling, "I SEE HIM!"

I took three steps forward and looked up a little, and there I met the golden eyes of my beloved bird baby. He was just out of reach on a branch in the crepe myrtle on the right, and he was right there, and real, and green, and mine, and home.

Within a minute, he was on my arm and headed back to his cage, into which he leapt and rushed for his food dish. We had kept fresh pellets, seeds, and water in there, but I sent for more peanuts, more sunflower seeds, and more fresh water. Cosmo dived into first one peanut, and then another, wolfing them down in his hunger and then diving for the sunflower seeds.

I scrambled for my cell phone to call my sister to tell her that he was home, and then I realized that Wesley had missed it all! He was off getting my Coke 2! As he pulled into the driveway, I hung up from talking to my sister. Cosmo was into the water now, drinking and drinking and drinking so fast that he actually choked and coughed and sputtered and then drank some more.

As Wesley came to a stop, the children were jumping up and down and shouting, "COSMO'S HOME! COSMO'S HOME!" I realized I was jumping and waving with them, laughing out loud, and I watched as the news registered on Wesley's face while he sat behind the wheel and watched us.

He jumped out of the truck and ran to Cosmo's cage on the porch, and he grabbed the sides in a grip and said, "You are never doing that again!" Then he turned around and grabbed me to him in a huge hug, holding me close and saying, "I can't believe it, I can't believe it." And although he is testosterone poisoned and very much a guy's guy, I could *swear* there was some moisture in his eyes when he finally let me go and turned back to Cosmo.

He's home. My bird is home. After four excruciatingly long nights and almost as long days, after two thundershowers and two really unseasonably cool nights, Cosmo is finally home. And we didn't find him. He found us.

Cosmo is a little the worse for wear -- he's missing most of his tailfeathers, much of the feather covering from around his left ear, and there's a tiny bald spot on the top of his head. He has been ravenously hungry and thirsty, but he's also been sleeping most of the time since I rolled his cage back to its usual spot in the bird room. He had pasta with pesto and a whole tomato for dinner, and he didn't eat at first because he wanted to sleep some more, but then he ate and went back to sleep later in the evening.

But he's home. This story has a happy ending. And I didn't have to make it up -- it happened all on its own. That's just the way I like it, too.


At 22/6/05 2:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bay I am soo so haooy Cosmo came home. WHat a wonderful ending!!

Colleen (fyrfytrwyf)

At 22/6/05 2:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love a happy ending too! Thank goodness he found his way home!

At 22/6/05 4:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh Bay... you have me almost in tears. I am so glad Cosmo found his way home. Miracles do happen!! And my gosh, what a storyteller you are...

Carmen (northcarmen from 2Peas and ScrapVillage).

At 22/6/05 4:28 AM, Blogger Kathleen Summers said...

Oh Bay, I am so happy for you and Cosmo and your family. What a HUGE relief!!!!

~Kathleen Summers

At 22/6/05 6:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Been thinking of you ... glad you were able to share a happy ending with us!

At 22/6/05 7:12 AM, Blogger Nancy N. said...

Bay I am so glad you have a happy ending with your feathered family member!!

At 22/6/05 7:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazing story. So happy your baby is home.

At 22/6/05 7:33 AM, Blogger Gwyn Calvetti said...

I am so very glad he found you and is home. There is a God!

At 22/6/05 9:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, I'm so happy that I'm in tears!!!! Yeah!!!


At 22/6/05 9:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! What an amazing story! Maybe he was visiting with that Utah Boy Scout while he was gone!


At 22/6/05 10:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

yeah! so happy for you!

At 22/6/05 10:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG, Bay! That's a fabulous story!! I'm sitting here at work, crying!! I can't imagine what you've been through the past few days -- but I'm thrilled that your story had a happy endign! Welcome home, Cosmo!!

At 22/6/05 10:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Such a great ending. I am so, so glad that your beautiful baby came home to you. He is SUCH a handsome boy!


At 22/6/05 11:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nothing beats a happy ending and I am glad your family is complete again

At 22/6/05 11:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bay I am so happy! Your story made me shed a happy tear. LOL

At 22/6/05 11:30 AM, Blogger Cathy said...

Wow! What a great story to start the day - there's nothing like a good cry over a great ending!

SO happy for you!

At 22/6/05 11:37 AM, Blogger AquariusRises said...

Not on a happy ending, but a perfect happy ending! What a relief you must have felt and what a sleep you must have had afterwards! Thank you so much for letting us know Cosmo was safe.

At 22/6/05 12:03 PM, Blogger Amy said...

I am so glad to see that the sweet birdy came home!! What a story and adventure he had!

At 22/6/05 12:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh Bay, I'm so happy that Cosmo came home to you. Nothing like a wonderful happy ending.

At 22/6/05 9:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You do have a happy ending for your sad tale. I am very happy that you have Cosmo home. My husband and I have an amazon parrot who is now 25 1/2 years young. We know how much we love our bird so I can feel the anquish that you had when he was missing the joy on his return. Congrats on having your family back together again.

At 23/6/05 8:52 AM, Blogger Ally said...

WAHOOO! Bay! That is fantastic news!!! I am so relieved to hear that you have found him!! You must be ecstatic beyond words (though your words describe things pretty darn well!) :)

At 23/6/05 12:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so happy for you guys! I was very happy to read the good news. :) -Shelley Laming (shelley89 at TwoPeas)


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