The kids had picked out the cage; a top of the line stainless steel penthouse beauty with a bonus loft, a state of the art water dispenser boss enough to have Tasmanian Rain running through it, and some wicked millet that would put the street price of Thai Stick to shame. Everyone on the ride home took a turn holding the birdcage with birds in it, on their lap. I took a pass when the silver palace was offered to me; I thought it best that I focus on not working myself up into a heart attack and passing out at the wheel because OMG birds in the car.
I just wanted to make the half mile back to our house before I found myself with a full blown case of Bird-Induced terror. Birds in nature are lovely; gaze-worthy, like beautiful flying bunches of flowers. But in close proximity, with their sudden movements, their head ducking, the pecking, all that fluttering and feather scattering, squawking and cheeping, they freak me the hell out.
No psychoanalysis is needed, no questions need to be asked – I'll give you the reason for the why right now: I never should have been allowed to watch birds peck out a man's eyes when I was a little girl. Yes, you read right. My family left me unsupervised to watch Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds.
The movie caused me lasting psychological damage, but the real nail in my mental coffin was when I read in college that Alfred Hitchcock had based his movie on a town's true nightmare. In 1961, the residents of a small California coastal town were attacked by hundreds of seagulls in the dark of the night. The birds slammed their bodies against their homes and when the people stepped outside to investigate the noise, the birds turned toward the flashlights. The people ran back inside, taking cover and awaiting daylight.
And here I sit behind the steering wheel of a car that has birds in it. My children are giddy but I am mentally screaming out of my minivan window as we drive through these suburban streets, "20 bucks for a Xanax! I've overheard you women talk and I know you have it!” But I will do anything for my kids, so I pulled myself together and held it together enough to not drive off the road. We made it home and the garage never looked more beautiful. The six of us pulled in. We unloaded the cage, decided the backroom was the best place, and the kids spent the rest of the day jumping up and down and flapping their wings trying to communicate.
The birds chirped happily until the kids went out to play. Then it was me, left alone with their feathered friends. They had named them Cheepy and Peepy. Like junk yard dogs, these two sensed fear. Though they were both the aggressive type, the hands down more Doberman than bird one zeroed in on me and locked eyes. I could feel it in the back of my head. He was hatching a plan and it involved poking my eyes out. I don't like envisioning the future, but I did. Have any of you ever heard of intrusive thoughts? They're called intrusive because they're not welcome – but that never stops them from coming.
At the first bird cage cleaning, this finch was going for it – first my hands, then my eyes. I had no doubt. One of us had to go, there would be no co-existence here.
You're expecting to read right about now that I told the kids we had to return the birds, right? I didn't. The birds were going to do the work for me and I wasn't going to have to say a thing. Days passed, and the time came when we could no longer put off changing the paper at the bottom of the birdcage, so I put the cage, the birds, and the three boys in their small, small bathroom. I gave them instructions on scrubbing, soaping, paper changing, oh - and I told them, "But first! Let the birds fly loose and get some exercise in here! They'll like that!"
Then I left the bathroom, closing the door behind me, and waited on the other side. I heard the sound of metal knocking back and forth, then a heavy drop.
Three seconds. Three seconds is all it took before my children bolted out of the bathroom wild eyed with hands covering their heads. “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh! It was like they wanted our eyes, mama! They wanted our eyes! Take them back!”
Had Alfred had been there to see my children that day, he would have offered them starring roles in Birds II. And no need to audition.
* * *photo credit: The Birds via photopin (license)