I took my little Chloe on a girls' shopping trip today. Casually strolling with my tiny girlfriend from Target to Ross, I remembered how I used to take the boys to Pet Smart to check some cute animals out, and spontaneously decided to pop in and do the same with Chloe. After chatting with a few Guinea pigs, Chloe suddenly yelled out in Russian "Ptichki!", which means "birds" and rushed towards the cage. This snapshot that I managed to take means a world to me. You see, I used to have a little blue budgie just like that. That budgie gave me my very first lesson about love, friendship and loss. This picture made me recall once again as clear as day when I lost my little bird - something I had to include in my second novel, "A Year in the Sky". I hope you will enjoy this short excerpt, especially considering that today I realized that life has a miraculous way of coming back in a manner you never expected - that life always wins.
"Eight years prior, I was standing at that very spot, sadly squashed between my mom and dad, watching my dad lay my pet parakeet Arisha to rest beneath the newly planted aspen tree. Salty tears had been streaming down my puffy cheeks non-stop since the night before, when Arisha very inconveniently decided to kick it on my thirteenth birthday. Having Arisha in my life convinced me that even birds could have their own personality and a heck of a sense of humor. This tiny bird, when placed in a bathroom for the fear of being stepped on by my grandmother, who was then rapidly losing her eyesight, would knock off all shampoos and shower gels that we had lined up in exactly the same sequence, leaving the tallest one on the shelf, only to be found sitting on top of this tallest shampoo bottle, staring proudly in the mirror and kissing her own reflection. This tiny bird knew that my dad was on the first floor of our apartment complex before anyone human could have possibly seen or heard him and started reproducing exactly the same mel-ody my dad would always whistle when he played with her. And this tiny bird would always – always – poop on my hair every sin-gle time I washed it.
On the night following my thirteenth birthday, I awoke in the plush dark of the night from a very ominous in its simplicity thump. Already knowing what I couldn’t have possibly known, I switched my bedside lamp on and looked in bewilderment at the cage that seemed to be empty. I slowly got out of bed, walked up to it, for some reason casting a glance at and noticing the Gone with the Wind novel that I had been engulfed in for the last two weeks, and saw my beautiful turquoise bird lying quietly on the bottom of the cage. All I could hear was her bird swing creak as it was still mov-ing lightly back and forth, and all I could see was her one shiny black pearl of an eye staring at me. I couldn’t feel my mom hugging me tight and shaking me a little, I couldn’t hear my own sobs, all I could think of was that I couldn’t trust the world anymore. I felt lost.
I buried my face in my dad’s arm and squeaked, “She was my only friend. The only friend I could trust.”
“Elena, you should be friends with people, not with animals,” my dad said sternly, his eyes glittering with an ill-hidden concern and tears that he did not cry for our pet bird – as it was obviously un-manly to cry for a tiny parakeet.
I looked up at him, puzzled. Being friends with people and trust-ing them must have been an issue for me already then."