Once upon a time there was a boy who loved birds. While other three-year-old boys pretended to be firefighters and superheroes, this boy told everyone who would listen that he wanted to be an ornithologist. And those who heard the little boy smiled because he used words that were almost as big as he was.
Whenever the boy wished for a bird of his own, his mother told him that they were too noisy, or too messy, or too expensive. Besides, they had a cat and a dog who would probably try to eat the bird. The boy understood, but he didn't stop dreaming.
One afternoon, a summer dust storm blasted the neighborhood where the boy lived. His mother watched the storm through the kitchen window while she washed dishes. When she turned her back to dry and put away a plate, she heard a "WHACK!" against the pane.
The boy heard the noise, too. He ran from the family room where he had been playing with the other children. "Mom! Another bird must've hit the window. We have to save it."
Mom stepped between the boy and the door to outside and knelt in front of him. "Son, it's probably just another pigeon. It will be okay."
"But Mom! We have to save it." The boy jumped up and down. "Please, Mom!"
"Okay. I'll go take a look. But you have to stay inside. Promise?"
"Yes, I promise. Hurry Mom. He might be hurt!"
The last thing Mom wanted to do that day was deal with a dead bird and the resulting tears of anguish that would ensue. She stood up and turned to go out the door. A flash of blue caught her attention. She threw open the door and scanned the patio. The wind caught the door and sneaked a swirl of dried leaves and desert dust across the threshold before Mom could push the door shut.
A bit of sand flew into Mom's eyes and blurred her vision. She looked down and blinked hard. When she opened her eyes again, she saw it - a little blue parakeet - what some people would call a budgerigar, or budgie for short. It fluttered its sky blue wings against the wind and sought refuge under a patio bench. Mom watched the little bird for a moment to see if it would fly away.
Inside the house, the boy jumped up and down. "Mom. Is it okay? Mom. Where is it? Mom. I want to see!"
The parakeet settled against the leg of the bench, ruffled its feathers out and tipped to one side. Mom took a slow step toward the bench. The bird didn't move. Mom reached down and touched the blue puff of feathers. Still no movement. Mom scooped the bird up with both hands. It fluttered a bit, then went still again. She could feel the rapid beat of its tiny heart in the palm of her hand.
"Mom! What is it?" The boy couldn't wait any longer. He threw the door open.
"Shhhh! Settle down. You don't want to scare this little guy. Look. It's not a pigeon after all. Do you know what kind of bird this is?" Mom stepped back into the house and motioned for the boy to close the door.
"A parakeet. It's a blue parakeet. Is he okay? Look, everyone. Mom caught a parakeet. Oh, can we keep him? Please? Oh, Please? We need to get a cage. Can we please go buy a cage?" The boy tried to whisper, but he could barely contain his excitement.
The other children gathered around Mom and the boy. A bird! The boy had wished for a bird and he got one. Everyone spoke at once.
"What will we name it?"
"Is it a boy bird or a girl bird?"
"Where did it come from?"
"What if its owners are looking for it?" At this question, everyone stopped to wait for Mom's answer.
"Well, I think we need to put up signs around the neighborhood and ask if anyone lost a bird."
The boy crossed his arms and the corners of his mouth turned down. "But I want to keep him. Finders keepers, losers weepers."
The boy's older sister handed Mom a small box with some paper towel wadded up in it. Mom set the bird in the box and looked into her son's eyes. "How would you feel if this was your bird and it got lost?"
The boy looked down. A tear ran down the side of his nose and hung on the tip for a moment before it dripped onto the boy's tennis shoe. He looked back up at Mom with a determined look in his eye.
"Okay, but if no one calls us in a week, can we keep him?"
Mom ruffled the boy's hair. "Sure. But we have to give it a week. And I expect you to help take care of the bird."
"Yes! We have a bird. I knew we would get a bird. I just knew it." The boy high-fived his siblings and everyone chatted about making signs for the neighborhood and how and where they would get a cage for their new pet.
A week went by and no one claimed the little blue parakeet who flew in with the wind. The boy declared the bird to be named Gusty Sky - Sky for short. The family bought a cage and researched the types of food and how to care for Sky. One time, Sky got out of his cage - oh, yes, the bird specialist at the pet store declared Sky was a young male, but of undetermined age. The dog barked and chased the bird, wanting someone to play. The cat stalked the bird and was ready to make a meal of him, but Mom snatched the bird in the nick of time. Sky refused to be taken out of his cage after that.
The boy grew. He started school. The family moved to another state and the bird went with them. He even spent a summer in a tent trailer with the family of the boy and that crazy, stalker cat. A couple of times the family found the bird in his cage on the floor. Sky looked ruffled, but he never told on the the cat.
More years passed. The boy went to high school and every afternoon the bird was there to greet him with a tweet when he returned home. Sometimes the boy played his piano or cello and the bird sang along. If the boy and his Mom forgot to refill Sky's food dish, that cunning parakeet would lift the edge of the dish with his beak and then let go so that the dish would bang against the side of the cage. Over and over and over again until he got what he wanted. He had great communication skills and he had his people well trained.
When the boy left for college, the bird was left with the Mom and Dad. His chirps and squawks became less frequent. Sky took longer and longer naps on his perch in the sun. He often got grumpy with mom and would nip at her fingers when she cleaned his cage. He missed his boy.
One day, Sky fell from his perch. He flapped his wings and squawked frantically. Mom reached in to the cage to calm him. When she picked him up, one foot appeared to be paralyzed. Sky calmed down when Mom set him back on his perch. A day or two later, Sky couldn't perch any more. Mom didn't know that birds could have strokes. Mom tried to make him comfortable, but she knew that sixteen years was a long time to have a little blue parakeet, not even counting how old he was before he crashed into their lives on the wind.
January 2, 2017, Gusty Sky rode the wind back to his creator. The boy doesn't know yet. He's in Russia serving as a young volunteer for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The kitchen at the boy's house is hauntingly quiet without Sky's tweets and chirps and squawks. His noises had helped the Mom adjust to the quiet the boy left behind. Noises that somehow went unnoticed until they were gone.
Rest in peace little blue bird. Watch over the boy, would you please?
Life is magnificent.