Nana kept a beautiful yellow parakeet who she named “Happy” which she aquired before my birth. This “Happy” was her second parakeet of the same name.
I well remember Happy. Nana loved her bird and doted over him almost as she would a small child. She gave him toys, bells, cuttle bone, covered his cage each night at bedtime, “So he won’t catch a chill”, as she put it. Every morning Nana removed the cover then opened the little barred door to his cage.
Happy started his chirping and singing promptly upon sunrise. I loved hearing him wake up before all of us on sleepovers. He made me feel happy.
Nana suffered from clinical depression reflective of more than her share of tragedy in life. A strong woman, born of a strong woman, things heaped up and up on her, weighing her down.
Widowed very young, she lived alone. I’m quite certain that her tiny feathered friend with so many rapid heartbeats brought to her a measure of joy.
One morning Nana was hanging the laundry out the window to dry, Spontaneously, Happy took flight out into the city. At home, a few blocks away, we received the emergency phone call. All hell had broken loose when we arrived. Nana in sobs. The window open, wet laundry askew. Not a Happy bird in sight. Mom tried her best to calm Nana down. Eleanor and I wiggled in our seats, watched quietly with bated breath. Wishing Nana to feel okay, stop crying and Happy to fly back through the window. Hell, we were just little kids. But I knew I’d miss Happy terribly if he never came back because Nana might stay sad forever.
I don’t recall how it happened, but Happy did return to Nana. The small bird lived a long life with Nana, even for a parakeet. So yellow, cheerful and bright. Someone for her to tuck in at night before turning off her lamp and pulling up her covers. Nana’s depression along with it’s best friend, anxiety loomed over her for the rest of her life. She took simple pleasure where she found it. Joy in brilliant yellow feathers singing morning songs. Nana recognized the significance of open cage doors.
Many years later, as a young adult living alone, I acquired my own parakeet. A spitting image of Happy. I named him “Happy Bird The Third”. I mimicked Nana in caring for him.
Except for this one thing. I did ironically, learn this from Nana. I’m sorry he had a cage. His cage was for me. But one cannot keep another happy in a cage.
I left his cage door open. Happy flew in and out for his food and water. Came and went as he pleased. He loved me playing harmonica and would sit on the instrument and chirp as I played. Quite the character, that yellow bird.
Happy Bird the Third lived a long, free range life.
This little bird, wild and free, contemplating his bath, reminds me of Nana, melancholy, freedom and Happy.
And of how simple joys sometimes make a complicated mess all worthwhile.

NB Wilde

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