When I was little our mum used to keep budgies. They were all colours – green, blue, yellow, white – but they were so noisy. My sister and I couldn’t stand it, chirpy-chirp-chirp all day, even at night until the cloth was put over their cage. But she loved them, our mum did, she talked to them, taught them sentences and rhymes, even recorded them on an old-fashioned tape recorder.
She gave them names, too. Georgie was one, and she taught it “Georgie Porgie, pudding and pie, kissed the girls and made them cry” – except it never learnt to say the last word and stopped with the words “and made them,” which was annoying.
Mostly they were called Joey. “Hello, Joey!” it would say to itself, and “Who’s a pretty boy, Joey?” This was very annoying.
After one of the Joey birds died she got a pair. She called them Peter and Paul, like in the nursery rhyme:
Two little dickie birds sitting on a wall,
One named Peter, one named Paul.
This didn’t make sense because one of them was a girl and should have been called Paula or Polly, but mum still called it Paul. Peter was blue and Polly (that’s what us kids called it) was green. Peter learnt to say
Fly away Peter, fly away Paul,
Come back Peter, come back Paul.
There was this trick our mum showed us when we were little, with bits of tissue attached to two fingers, but I thought it was silly teaching it to the budgies because I remember thinking it would give them ideas about flying away.
One day it happened. Peter managed to get out the back door while mum was hanging out the washing. It definitely wasn’t my fault. Anyway, mum started shouting and we all rushed out into the garden, me, my sister and my dad. “He’s flown into the trees behind the garages!” she said, and sure enough we could see a bit of blue halfway up a tree. Our dad got out a ladder but I could see he’d only frighten the bird so I said I’d go up it.
So I did go up, and at the top I had to leave the ladder and use branches for my hands and feet. I was just reaching out with my left hand, quietly saying, “Come back, Peter, come back,” when my dad chucked a stone. It hit the branch Peter was sitting on and he flew away. I don’t know why he threw the stone; maybe he was fed up with all the chirping about Peter and Paul flying away.
Anyway, soon after that Polly died – it was from a broken heart, mum said – and mum got another budgie, a yellow one. She called it Joey. It never learnt to talk, just chirped.
Dad seemed to spend more time in the garage after that, but I never found out why.
- Written for a creative writing class homework on writing for children.
Budgerigars are also known as parakeets