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Bonding with Blueie

How a lovebird won my heart after a lifetime spent trying to live with incompatible pets

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Instead, I was allowed to nourish creatures that wouldn't make me wheeze, like salamanders, fish, turtles and frogs. Encouraged, I named the four salamanders after characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, and grew accustomed to Jem, Scout, Dill and Calpurnia crawling on me. I kept them in a giant brandy snifter full of water, but they eventually drowned, exhausted because – I learned much later – I should have provided them with a rest area.

The angelfish lived happily in a fish tank placed on the radiator in my bedroom; happily, that is, until the night the temperature plummeted and my grandmother adjusted the thermostat in the house to a toastier temperature: toasty for humans, lethal for angelfish.

The frog? He was tiny, an inch long, and I would rush to his terrarium every day after school so that I could indulge my feral need for something that I loved that would love me back unequivocally. And one day I picked up my squatting frog and his legs dangled in the air like two limp shreds of post-party crepe paper. "Mommmmm!!!!!!!!!" My three siblings were brought in for questioning, the hot lights trained on them until, sweating, Gina confessed. She admitted to picking up my frog and locking his small legs between two of her fingers so that she could study him closely, but then the frog tried to escape from this pre-pubescent Joan Embery's hand. SNAP. Gina folded his legs underneath his body and placed him back into his terrarium.

The turtles were acquired from Woolworth's, in that section of the store just past the Con-Tact paper rack and the display of plastic brooms festooned with feathery neon bristles. You'd pick out a turtle and then be inveigled by the smoking saleslady with the reddish eyebrows painted WAY up high on her forehead into purchasing a plastic environment for him to live in, enhanced with a little island and a rubbery palm tree that kept falling over. "What do I feed him?" you'd ask, and she'd reply, "Oh, you know ... table food, hamburger, that kinda stuff."

That turned out to be nothing he liked; those turtles turned up their little green noses at everything. They'd eventually expire, but I think the turtle farmers knew what they were doing: Our attention spans were perfectly matched to their expected life spans.

Before I was given Blueie the lovebird I played host to four parakeets. Let me just tell you that parakeets are in no way as involved with their owners as lovebirds are. Parakeets sit in their cages and plot ways to escape. They fix their beady eyes on you, blaming you for their 2-by-4 lives, and dare you to engage them. They want OUT, period. They don't care if you've named them, and they don't answer when you call.

Blueie and I can sit and watch The Birds on Netflix, happily BEEPing at one another until it's time to go to bed. I can communicate with him; we've bonded. And that's called love.

Jim Crescitelli is a freelance writer and besotted owner of a lovebird named Blueie. He's been writing for various publications locally since Methuselah was a boy.

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