The day before Christmas my parakeet, Pavo Rotti, was poking around the bottom of his cage. I looked in to see what he was scratching up. “What’s going on Pavo,” I asked.
“Tell me Big Guy, is there a water shortage around ‘ere?”
Pavo has problems with English and having been born to an Aussie mother he occasionally slips and drops his h’s or mixes up his a’s and i’s. He’s also been told we drive on the wrong side of the road so I question him carefully to keep from embarrassing him and causing him to clam up.
“A water shortage? Where’d you get that idea Pavo?”
“Well last evening a whole bunch of little big guys went by the house. They were dressed sort of funny and were singing ‘No-Well, No-Well, No-Well, No-Well.’ Sounds like a water shortage to me.”
I chuckled lightly, but not enough for him to notice. “Oh, those were carolers Pavo, spreading the good news of the season.”
“You’re dodging the question again Big Guy. Since when is a water shortage good news? Does it have anything to do with the weather? Haven’t had much rain lately.”
“Let me explain Pavo. Noel is a song of celebration spelled n-o-e-l. It is from the French noël which in turn has its origin in the Latin natalis. It has to do with celebrating a birth. The English used it first in the early 1800’s in a Christmas Carol called the First Noel.”
I sang the refrain several times so he’d understand.
“Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel,
Born is the King of Israel.”
Pavo, of course, is an aspiring opera singer but his beady eyes still showed no sense of appreciation as he squinted at me. “Why are you celebrating the birth of a king?” he asked. “I thought you lived in a democracy.”
“You see Pavo, Noel is also synonymous with the term of Christmastide, the span of days from Christmas Eve, December 24th to January 6th, the feast of the Epiphany. It’s the bridge from the old year to the New Year.”
”There you go with the water again Big Guy. Does this Christmas tide thing wash away the wreckage of the past year?”
“It’s time for a celebration. Twelve days of Christmas. Surely you’ve heard the song.”
“Is that the one involving a bunch of birds?” asked Pavo, warming up to the subject.
“Yup. Turtle doves, French hens, calling birds, geese and swans. And don’t forget the partridge in a pear tree.
Pavo looked puzzled. “What’s that, a calling bird? Is that somebody who sounds like me on the telephone?”
“It’s a little complicated Pavo. They were black birds, black as coal, as in colliery, a coal mine. Actually were called colly birds in old English.”
“And what are they in new English?”
“But nothing about parakeets?”
“They weren’t known during the era when the song was popular.”
“Don’t you see why I feel neglected B.G.? I’m not a part of anything.”
“Pavo. We consider you to be one of the family.”
“That doesn’t help Big Guy. That means I have to put up with your relatives and I don’t want to be involved in a repeat of Thanksgiving.”
“So, what’s your alternative Pavo?”
“I’m going to go find my mother.”
“Get real Pavo. The last we heard, she was in Seattle somewhere. That was a year ago.”
“I’ll find her.”
“I hate to point out the circumstance of your residence here Pavo. But there’s no easy way out and even if you get outside, you’ll freeze in the cold.”
Pavo was quick to reply. “But global warming’s fixing that B.G.. Look at today’s temperature. Near the end of December and it’s still in the fifties.
“If you’re thinking of flying west, the Rockies will take care of that notion Pavo.”
“I’m not going that way. I plan to take the southern route.”
“That’s a long way.”
“Six thousand miles was a short hop to my ancestors. And in keeping with their adventurous spirit I plan to fly down the East Coast to Jacksonville, go west toward New Orleans, bear WSW to Galveston, on to Chihuahua, up to Yuma, then all the way up the west coast to Seattle. I expect to get there in the spring,”
“But you get tired just flying around the room Pavo. And with the doors closed, how do you plan to get out?”
“You’re not the only friend I have around here B.G. I’m sure Phydeaux will lend a hand, um … er, paw.”
“You’d better think about this overnight,” I said as I put the cover on his cage.
This morning when I got up, Pavo’s cage was lying on the floor. A cool breeze flowed across the floor from the open cat door. Its flap was held up by the braided rug that looked as if it had been shoved there by Phydeaux in one of his slides across the slick hardwood floor trying to intercept Phallix the cat. Pavo was nowhere to be seen.
A three by five note card on my desk had a haiku made up of individual letters plucked from the newspaper lining the bottom of his cage. Pavo must have spent half the night flying back and forth between his cage and my desk.
The snow gets too tiring
And fear of travel exists no more
Seattle and mother await me
I stood the cage stand back on its base, swept up the birdseed that had been scattered across the floor and took the cage back to the attic. But I left it where it was easily accessible, – just in case Pavo has a change of heart.