BUDGIE: My Childhood Best Friend Mickey by Sally Blanchard (Painting of me as a child, Mickey, and the white-crowned sparrow by my father)
When I was in the 4th grade we bought a budgerigar (commonly and mistakenly called a parakeet). As I recall, Mickey quickly took over the household. I loved Mickey. He was my best buddy and I spent a great deal of time playing and working with him. Mickey chattered endlessly. He would chirp, sing and whistle constantly with an occasional verbal gem thrown in for fun. He became an excellent talker and even picked up expressions from television. At the time, one of our favorite television shows was Bums and Allen. One day, out of nowhere, he announced to my mother, "You're in a jam, Gracie".
One time when my grandmother was visiting, Mickey landed on her shoulder as she was going out the front door and said: "Shut the door stupid, the bird's out!". Luckily, he stayed put as she quickly hurried back into the house. Mickey loved to admire himself in our antique wall mirrors so much that my father painted green leaves around the bottom of all of the hanging mirrors. This way the little narcissist couldn't see himself and left the mirrors alone.
Mickey usually "helped" me with my homework. As I would write down the words on paper, he would busily try to eat them or he would try to play wrestle with the pencil. I doubt that my teacher would have accepted my excuse for not getting my homework done if I told her that my budgie ate the words as I wrote them down.
OrnithophobiaWhen Mickey was out of his cage he was an equal opportunity dive bomber, buzzing everyone regardless of who they were. Because of my father's job, my parents had frequent dinner parties. My brother and I were usually allowed to visit with the guests for a while before we went to bed. I clearly remember one evening when Mickey got out and flew around the room. One woman went hysterical as if he was going to torture her, kill her and then possess her soul. She screamed and screeched, threw her arms around and tried to swat him out of the air. I think Mickey took this as a challenge and it took quite a comedy of errors for us all to try and capture him and return him to his cage. My brother, Roger and I were jumping over the furniture and bouncing off the couch. It was great fun for the three of us — Mickey seemed to love the chase too!
Once my father caught him, the woman insisted that the fearsome flyer be placed completely out of sight or her husband would have to take her home immediately. I just couldn't understand and probably still can't why anyone would have such an overwhelmingly phobic reaction to my terrific little guy. This was even before Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" single-handedly created a whole generation of "aviphobes". I guess some people still believe that flying birds and bats are the same and are instruments of great evil. How sad. Even bats are usually gentle, harmless creatures trying to live their own lives and do not deserve their negative reputation. In truth, Mickey was totally innocent—just out for a fun time!