Transporting the birds from Minneapolis to Sacramento was not an easy task. The plan in the spring of 2002 was my husband would drive to Sacramento and get an apartment, while I stayed behind to sell the house. He had to immediately start a job as managing editor of the Sacramento Business Journal, a job he lost due to management changes in 2008. (He's still unemployed.)
As my husband was packing to drive across country, it dawned on me that he could take the parakeet with him. An idea he firmly resisted. It made sense because I knew I would fly to Sacramento only once during our separation, and Northwest Airlines policy would allow me to transport two birds but not three. When he refused, my eyes teared up. I said, "Fine, then I may as well open the door and let all the birds fly away."
He put the parakeet in his car.
A couple of months later, I flew out to Sacramento to look at homes in Land Park and celebrate our wedding anniversary. I put the cockatiels in a breeding box and grabbed a cab to the airport. You have to buy a ticket for pets. They don't fly free. At the ticket counter, the Northwest representative refused to sell me tickets because I didn't have a health certificate for the cockatiels.
My plane was leaving in an hour. I explained it was my wedding anniversary; I almost started to cry. I had to get on that plane and could not leave the birds at the ticket counter. I asked for a supervisor. After much discussion, Northwest gave me tickets.
Going through security was another challenge. I didn't want the birds X-rayed. I don't know what I was worried about. Maybe that it would microwave them? I was still shaken by the fact I almost didn't get on the plane. Security personnel said they would have to look down the birds' throats if I didn't put them through X-ray. The birds would bite me if I tried to touch them. I mean, you try to stuff 2 cockatiels in a breeding box. It's not easy. They went through X-ray.
Finally, settled in my seat with the birds on the floor, the plane took off down the runway. A flight attendant stopped at my seat. "What's in the box? That can't be on the floor; it must go in an overhead bin."
She gingerly picked up the box and carefully carried it to the closet at the front of the plane.
I tell you all this because last night the birds found a new home. Capitol City Bird Society came to my home in Land Park. They are placing the birds with a new family. It was bittersweet. Of the four who left, only one was an original bird from Minneapolis. I had been searching for someone to adopt them because I haven't been a very good birdmom. I haven't bonded with the new birds. I've been too busy selling real estate over the years to pay attention to them, apart from cleaning out their cages and feeding them. It wasn't fair to them. Birds need human interaction and love.
I already miss their songs and chirping. But keeping birds in a corner of the family room only to listen to their singing isn't right. It's very quiet this morning. And weird. I have a little hole in my heart.
Photo: Elizabeth Weintraub