Budgies! Or letters home from an American in Paris

September 1, 1998--A new addition to the family

For quite some time now Elisheva has dreamed of having a pet. We were talking about it seriously since last Passover, comparing different kinds of animals... but since we were going away for the holiday and then it would almost be summer vacation, the final decision was always being postponed. When Elisheva got back from summer camp we took a walk along the Seine River. Here along the quay there are a couple of blocks that have one pet store after another, interspersed with flower shops. You can get almost any kind of animal here--cats, dogs, rats, mice, hamsters, ducks, rabbits, chinchillas, guinea pigs, fish, and birds. A choice was made, with the decision to go back after returning from our week at the seaside, as long as Elisheva did a real deep reorganization and clean up of her room. And so, indeed, Elisheva worked very hard yesterday to make place for her new possible roommate and now her room looks lovely...

So? What did we do today? We all four went together and Elisheva chose a beautiful purple colored parakeet (or budgerigar=budgie) with a cage, a stand for the cage and birdfeed, etc. (The accessories cost three times as much as the bird!) It's really beautiful! We named her Leeloo. Birds are very delicate. If they are startled they can just drop dead from a heart attack! It's true! So no sudden noises or screams or cries or "quvetches" allowed. When Itzick heard that he didn't mind shelling out the dough... As I write this Leeloo is near Elisheva looking around her new home, watching her new young master read a book, but she is still too scared to really chirp or eat. She did excrete little round droppings, so we are sure she is alive and well.

And what is new with you?!

September 2, 1998--starting to feel at home

So what else is new? Well, that bird is really something! She chirps especially in the morning, jumps around, pecks here and there and yesterday she almost went on Elisheva's hand! I think she will be trained very soon! But I am worried about Leeloo being alone so much of the time. And when we go to New York--even though the housekeeper will come every day to check on it, talk to it a bit, parakeets are very sociable birds and I feel so bad for it. The pet store told us to get one so it can be trained more easily, but the book I bought and the Internet parakeet sites I visited always says it's healthier to have a couple! When these birds are too lonely they can really get depressed and die! What should we do?! Itzick doesn't mind if I buy another one, but what if one dies, do I have to keep getting another one for the remaining bird forever and ever?

September 10, 1998--friendship

Oh, I just have to talk some more about the sweet little bird. I am referring to Elisheva and not just Leeloo--those two understand each other. It's amazing. You just can't imagine how that bird jumps on Elisheva's shoulder and into her hand. Even without food in her hand, Leeloo will go to Elisheva and stay there. She flies around Elisheva's room, spends a good long while perched up on the ceiling light singing, flies again, then lands on Elisheva's bed with Elisheva there reading or drawing and stays there, chirping and making these little gurgling sounds that mean that she is happy.

November 1998--is he lonely?!

Venice was great! But before I tell you about it, you have to hear about Leeloo. She is doing more and more funny things. I bought her a kind of wooden playground for birds and I put a wooden ladder going from the top of her cage to the playground and little by little she started exploring all the ladders, swings, bells, mirror, etc. She is presently talking to (and nibbling at) a rubber ducky about her size that is sitting on the top part of the playground. Let me remind you that we always say 'she' when we speak about Leeloo because in French, 'budgie' or 'parakeet' is called 'peruche' and it is always in feminine grammatical form. But the truth is that Leeloo is a barmitzvah boy. You can tell because the little mask like area above the beak (where are the nostrils) is blue. By batmitzvah girls it's beige. Boys are more fun in the budgie kingdom. Girls, they say are moodier. Boys are supposed to be more social. I always worry that Leeloo is all alone, separated by others of his/her species. The pet shops always tell me that it's fine, but I don't know how I would feel in a similar circumstance. Even if my cage door was always open (as Leeloo's is) and there was plenty of food (uh, yeah, that's really important), and lots to play with-how would I feel if I didn't have any other humans around at all? Wait. Now that I think of it, it's not so bad. Except that Leeloo is the one stuck with all the humans...

December 1998--"Matchmaker, matchmaker make me a match!" and the GREAT ESCAPE

Ok, so I have a lot more to tell you about my trip to Russia, but I have to stop a minute to tell you about Kiwi!!!! If there ever was a beautiful love affair, this is it! You know, I told you on Sunday (so nice chirping with you, remember?) that I went with Elisheva in the morning to bring home a 'Shiduch' for Leeloo. We knew that he likes blondes because he went nuts last week over a little yellow rubber ducky. Elisheva chose a beautiful yellow and forest-green bird with big black eyes and a lot of attitude. You should have seen her fighting off those guys in the pet shop cage. I was a little worried if maybe she would do the same with Leeloo. Hello? Leeloo is small blue and handsome-what was I worried about? So what happened when we put one cage next to the other? Love at first sight, of course! Leeloo went wild for us to let him out of his cage and when we did, he flew straight on top of hers. Remember that you can't just put a new bird into the other one's cage. As I presented it to you on the phone: How would you feel coming home one day to find a perfect stranger on your living room couch, feet up, watching your TV? Well, I shouldn't ask you Deddy, because your answer was: Well, if it's a nice looking young lady...And you know what? Leeloo is obviously just like you! Because he is one happy bird! The pet shop said we should keep the birds apart for about a week or more. But they are already together in the originally cage after two days.

But the story isn't so simple! Sunday, Leeloo spent most of his time climbing all over the outside of Kiwi's cage, while she followed him climbing around on the inside. And they kissed passionately through the bars. (I'm talking-the tongue. Y'know, the real stuff. Hey, these birds were raised in France after all.) Good sign. They carried on many philosophical conversations that went something like: chirp, cheep, tweet, chirreep. Very deep. When it was time to sleep, Elisheva took Leeloo's cage up to the stand at her bed, and Kiwi started chirping wildly because she was being separated from her new beau.

Monday, Elisheva went to school, and I let Leeloo out to fly around, as I usually do. He went right to her cage, and she looked like she really wanted to get out and join him, but of course, that was impossible for the moment. First, we have to get her used to the original cage, and the room itself. Then, before letting her out, we must do just what we did for Leeloo-we have to cover all mirrors and windows until she slowly gets used to the fact that you can't fly through them. Otherwise she might zoom into one and literally break her neck. It took Leeloo about three days to learn to keep away from reflecting surfaces. Fine. So I close the door and go out to my computer. Suddenly I hear a clanking noise, as if something fell. I rush into Elisheva's room, and what do I see? Kiwi had thrown off the feeder cover and was out on the wooden playground with Leeloo! She was so beautiful without the cage bars obstructing my view! But I was terrified! She knows nothing of this room! And all the windows and mirrors are uncovered! And she is not at all trained! How will I get her back in! I approached slowly...and suddenly the two of them were in flight! She tried to follow him, but she was obviously terrified, not knowing where to go, where to land! She almost knocked into the mirror closet doors and the window, but when she saw Leeloo land on the window's wooden frames, she did they same. There they remained for many moments, looking out, kissing...until I approached very slowly, making gentle cooing noises. I put my finger near the two of them, and since she saw that Leeloo is not afraid of me, she didn't fly off. And then, I put my hand around her and gently held her and put her back into her cage. But now, it was obvious that they belong together. I called the pet shop to ask their advice and they said-put them together the next day. And we did. And things are great, except that we are terrified to let her out, and Leeloo really wants to be out with her. Hopefully in a week or so we will be able to train her and let them out together.

And now, I think I should fax this to you so you have something silly to read on Shabbos and I will continue in my next letter about everything and nothing.

January 1999--reflecting surfaces...

So, we are back in Paris! Boy did we miss those birds! I hear them chirping right now, so cute! They are so warm and fluffy with those soft colorful feathers! What a wonderful world G-d created that there should be such beautiful colorful chirpy things in it! And what a wonderful world G-d created that there could be such a gorgeous island called Corsica!!!

I will tell you all about it-but first I have to go get some cucumbers!

I didn't go yet for the cucumbers because I was watching Leeloo play with his little bell. He loves to pick it up in his beak and jingle it to make it ring. It's really cute. He is out of his cage playing around. We don't let Kiwi out because she makes us too nervous. She hasn't learnt not to fly bang into the mirrors yet. And we are terrified that while trying to teach her, she will break her neck or die of a cerebral hemorrhage. And then Leeloo will slip into deep depression because he loves her. So, he is out, he flies a bit and plays on his playground, hops around on the washcloth that is on the steam, and jingles his bell. She watches from in the cage and seems to have got used to the idea that he is out, and she is in. Oh, well. He is only out for about a couple of hours a day, so it's not too bad. Elisheva had Leeloo in her hand and kissed him and rubbed her nose and cheek on his neck and he nibbled her back. He considers her as part of his flock. Kiwi is not scared of Elisheva, but she is not trained like Leeloo. It doesn't bother us because we see it this way: Leeloo is our son, Kiwi is just the daughter-in- law...

Marion is great with the birds--she came to see them and care for them twice every day. We had a great vacation, and were happily ready to go home to our computers and birdies.

January 6-7, 1999--the dumb blond or the great cook?

Did you know that Kiwi is a great "balabustale"? I think it was her idea because Leeloo never did it before she came into his life. What? Make oat soup! The birds now regularly pick the oats our of the grain mix in their grain dishes and bring them over to the water containers and put them in there to soak and get nice and soft and then they eat them! So, maybe she doesn't know to keep away from mirrors, but she is a good cook. Now we no longer call her the beautiful dumb blond.

Itzick took Elisheva to her harp lesson, and then as usual they went to eat lunch some where. I just brought my laptop computer with me to Elisheva's room where I am working on a very complicated project. Not the one on my computer. I am simply typing these sentences to you. I am referring to my sitting here in Elisheva's room waiting for Kiwi to get the courage to leave her cage and join Leeloo flying around the room. All mirrors are covered. The windows have curtains drawn. She gets closer to the door, Leeloo calls to her, but she hops back to the safety of the perch. She gets closer again. Closer...She's out! I mgbl\a##@*lhm kss*(($%he sht!!#~ey ih^*na; I gotta go!!!!!

April 1999--a usual day of fun

Oh those birds! Every time I peek in I find them someplace else. They have a whole room for a cage. If find them on the CD tower. Then on the commode (dresser) playing with a piece of yarn left there or nibbling on a brush. They can be very sneaky! They are free all day and they just pop into the cage to eat every once in a while. If I come in during the day and see them eating, they know I won't lock them in. But once evening comes they act differently. If it's around 6:30pm or so and I come in while they are eating in the cage, they zoom out of the cage like lightening because they know it will soon be time to be locked in! Also, if I give something yummy (a chunk of whole wheat bread or red pepper) to them from my hand, Leeloo has to show Kiwi that he is the boss. He even goes so far as to stand right on top of the food (one foot on the pepper, one on my finger) to make sure that he gets first pick and she can only eat from the side. So sometimes I come in with two identical pieces. Kiwi nibbles from one hand and Leeloo from the other. But not for long. Although Kiwi stays calmly at the piece I offer her, Leeloo doesn't. He has to come over and see if Kiwi's piece is better! Just like me--tasting a little from every container of yogurt...They are such characters!

Did I tell you about the 4 hour walk Elisheva and I took Shabbos afternoon? Well, I just did.

April 16, 1999--family planning

It was soooooo nice talking to you! I love you people!

As I was saying, Leeloo is feeding Kiwi. This means that they are thinking of starting a family. Actually, he feeds her every once in a while anyway, but now more often. I am not so sure how happy I am about the idea of having more birds in the house, but once the state makes these kinds of decisions for its people it means fascism! I believe in liberalism! Why suddenly now are they thinking about having babies? Because I finally put the big wooden (hollow with a hole to go in) nest inside the cage. Why did I do that? Because I saw how frustrated Leeloo was getting with Kiwi for not letting him near her, if you know what I mean... And why wasn't she letting him near her? Because the nest was not in a safe and cozy place such as the cage. Got it? Well good for you!

So, you want to hear about our trip to Israel...well, without my being able to scuba-dive this time there isn't much to tell. We ate, we swam, we ate, we slept. And somewhere in there was some Yom Tov and some Shabbos, but we really didn't notice. Oh, we also played some gameboy color (not on Yom Tov or Shabbos). I had weird nightmares every night about the birds even though I knew Marion was comming twice every day to be with them. The price of love is more than a sac of grains...

To be continued...

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