Like most parents, I often dreamed about our children growing up, moving into a home of their own and providing us with grandchildren we could spoil rotten. I also looked forward to a time when I wouldn’t have to do twelve loads of laundry a week, our bathrooms and kitchen would stay relatively clean, and mopping the floor once a week would be enough. Our kids cooperated beautifully. They moved out of the house (eventually) own their own homes, have given us beautiful grandchildren to spoil and for the most part, we don’t have to worry about them.
You would think it would be time for my husband and me to sit back, relax, do our own thing and enjoy our freedom. It didn’t happen. Herbie, or G– d— f——- bird (fill in the blanks) as he is occasionally known has put a damper on our freedom. Herbie is a Nanday Conure–a small green parrot with a black head and beak, a blue breast and a ruff of red around his ankles. He doesn’t talk very much, doesn’t take up much space, but he makes his presence known.
Herbie showed up in our back yard about eight years ago. We found him by the back door, completely bedraggled and considering it was at least a hundred and five degrees in the shade, very much in need of water. We gave him a bowl of water, which he enjoyed, and then he climbed up my son’s shirt, perched on his shoulder and began to groom. We made an attempt to find his owner, but after a couple of weeks we were completely smitten with the little guy.
It was impossible not to love him. He would greet everyone with a hello, hop on their shoulder, give them kisses and cuddle against their neck. How adorable can you get? I did a little research and was surprised to learn that Nandays were considered high maintenance. They normally bonded with just one person, were noisy, sometimes aggressive, very territorial and tended to bite. I dismissed it. Herbie wasn’t aggressive, he loved everyone, rarely screeched and hadn’t bitten anyone. The only bad habits he had were his occasional use of the phrase, “Hello, bitch,” and a tendency to poop down one’s back. He loved to bob his head and dance, tap his beak and imitate sounds. He was a delight. A joy. And then he bonded. With me. And everything changed.
In Herbie’s world, I became his mate, he my protector. If my husband kissed me, Herbie got mad. When he got mad, he bit whoever was closest.(usually me) If I put him in his cage, he constantly screamed for me. Did I mention that conures mate for life? And that they can live twenty-five years? That’s not near as long as the bigger parrots live, but it’s a long time to be trapped in a possessive relationship. I figured I was screwed.
He has mellowed over the years, but living with Herbie is a lot like having a two-year old around, except that he will continue to behave like a two-year old for another fifteen years. There are a few differences. I don’t have to hire a babysitter if I need to go out. He goes to his cage for time-out, instead of sitting on the steps. When I put him to bed, he doesn’t crawl out of his cage and come downstairs. And I don’t have to take him anywhere other than the groomers.
But he does throw temper tantrums when he doesn’t get his way. He flings food across the room when he eats and has days when he refuses to eat anything but peanut butter and spaghetti. He regards me as transportation when he’s perfectly capable of walking. He tears up books and magazines when he wants attention, plays with my jewelry and thinks everything belongs to him. He wipes his messy face on me and constantly poops on the floor, so the laundry and mopping hasn’t diminished much. And he loves to take baths in the bathroom sink and gets water everywhere.
He isn’t particularly bright, either. When I take him to the groomers I always feel like I’m the parent who has mistakenly shown up at The Parent/Teacher Night for Gifted Children. There’s always someone who brags that their bird-child has a vocabulary of 500 words or saved their lives because it alerted them when the house caught on fire. All I can do is mumble that Herbie doesn’t talk much but he does a mean imitation of the Wicked Witch’s cackle in The Wizard of Oz.
Like most two-year olds, the cuteness factor outweighs the aggravation, but I occasionally long for a time when I’m not responsible for the care and feeding of another creature. I’m afraid that before that happens, old age will creep in and our children will be responsible for the care and feeding of us. I wonder if a wheelchair could double as a bird perch?
And just in case you’re wondering… I wouldn’t trade him for anything.