When I walked into that pet shop all those years ago, little did I know of the fascinating journey I was about to take into the world of avian friends. I say she was a rescue, but the reality is that she rescued me. It was a troublesome time in my life with lots of hard choices to make over the next few years for myself and my children. She remained a steady, gentle friend through it all.
I had small birds all of my life with my father and grandmother instilling in me a love for birds. At this time I had a Cockatiel, a pretty little cinnamon hen named Sunny. So I walked into this new shop looking for treats for my Cockatiel, and there in a SMALL BUDGIE cage was this enormous green bird that looked like she was taking it all in stride. She had big, dark brown eyes that beckoned me to her cage and she told me that her name was Lolita."LoooooooLiTA!" I talked to the shop owner about her. He had no idea how old she was and said that she had had several owners. I had not been in this shop before and really would have no reason to go back except for this parrot. As I headed out the door with small children in tow, I glanced back to see her stretching, as much as she could in her cramped quarters, so she could see over the the obstacles between us to look at me and say one more time, "LoooooooliTA!"
I knew nothing about parrots, but right then and there I went back and gave the man $25.00 and told him I would make payments on her until she was paid in full. Over the next two months I traveled to this shop to make my payments and visit her. She stayed in that little cage all that time. Lolita was a Mealy Amazon which is the biggest species of Amazon parrots, and it was ridiculous that she was being kept in that tiny, dirty cage. She wasn't all that colorful and Mealy Amazons look they have been rolled in flour and that is how they got their name. So, I suppose some would say she was not all that pretty. But we thought she was beautiful and she was.
Finally the day came that I was able to take her home. I had bought one of those square, galvanized steel breeding cages from a local farm store. It was cheap and it wasn't a nice looking cage, but it gave her a whole lot more room than what she had. As we all know, anything galvanized is dangerous for a bird. Later, I was able to buy a new parrot cage for her with a play top. But before I left the store with Lolita, the owner told me that she ate sun flower seeds and green beans and that she spoke Spanish. Of course she learned to eat much better as time went on and since none of us knew Spanish, she quickly lost her bilingual ability.She and I learned together, but she taught me more than I could ever explain.
I got her home and she stepped into her new house like she had been waiting for it. Later in that day, I put on a heavy leather glove and reached in for her. Her beak was intimidating and again, I knew nothing about parrots. She bit me hard and even though the glove was very thick, it still hurt. It was obvious that Lolita was afraid of this glove because she became very defensive with it on my hand, but she would get very quiet and submissive when my bare hand came near her. I quickly learned that this creature was extremely gentle even though she had been wild caught. [Of course now I highly disapprove of taking them out of the wild to be pets for collectors]
I have not used a glove for any big birds since.
Lolita quickly became part of the family. She was never one for talking much, at least not in English, but she continued to be extremely gentle. I had bought a little boy Cockatiel for Sunny and they produced many babies for us and I always tucked a little away to 'reinvest in a budding hobby business.' I was married, but this little "nest egg" along with raising, showing, and selling champion Golden Retriever pups was often times what kept food on the table. As I said, these were troublesome times with my ex husband and his alcoholism. There were times when we didn't have heat and we basically lived on hotdogs and box Mac 'N' Cheese, and so did Lolita. It was the money I earned through the dogs, the birds, house cleaning, and baby sitting that kept us going for as long as we did.
The children and I made a bird room out of one of the many bedrooms in our Pennsylvania farmhouse. We had also taken in a couple of rescue parrots, one of which was a perfect Moluccan Cockatoo name Peach that in my opinion had no issues other than her aging owner could no longer keep her. Along with her was a Blue Crowned Conure named Cookie.
Well, things finally came crashing in. My husband was gone from our lives and just coming around to sleep off a drunk and to pick up his mail from time to time. The bank had foreclosed on our home and I needed to get my children into a situation that was more stable. When life all came a part I sold and gave away all the dogs, and all the birds including Peach and Cookie because I simply did not know what the next day would bring. A very kind woman, who happened to work for one of our state representatives at this time, came to buy one of the birds. I explained my situation and why I was selling them. When we came to Lolita's cage I broke down and cried. She then offered to take Lolita and keep her at her rather luxurious home until I was settled and could take her back. Actually, she took Lolita and her little side-kick - a Fischer Lovebird named Buddy.
So, my ex and I went our separate ways and he walked out of our lives completely and never looked back, nor did he try to communicate with the children even to this day. We landed in a tiny two bedroom apartment. It was actually the beginning of better things, but at the time we didn't know that. As time went on we could see God's provision very clearly. We were warm, well fed, and I found a job doing respite care for handicapped children that gave me extensive training and kept me home for my kids. It was very rewarding.
Four months after our Exodus I wanted to bring Lolita home. I had misplaced the woman's phone number and didn't even know for sure if she would give Lolita back to me, but I knew where she lived. So, my four children and I all piled into our little Mazda and off we went. We stood on the woman's door step and knocked. She opened the door and greeted us with a big smile and warm welcome. Her house was beautiful and she had a very elaborate bird room in the middle of her home. It was fit for a king! I heard that wonderful voice and familiar word, "LooooooooliTA!" The woman gave my children a snack and talked about what wonderful birds Lolita and Buddy were and that she very much enjoyed their visit.
We loaded Lolita's cage into the trunk and put Lolita into a carrier and Buddy in another, and she and Buddy road home on the children's laps in the back seat. Her big cage in our tiny apartment was quite humorous as we stood around it like we were standing around a Christmas tree. We had lost everything and the only life the children had ever known, but we had Lolita and Buddy and all was well.
Tragically, Buddy flew into a window and died about a year later.
Life did progressively get better, God was providing and leading in wonderful new directions. I eventually remarried and remain happily married today. Well, two years after we married, on a very cold, first day of Spring day, we had house fire that all but destroyed the house. My husband and oldest son had gotten up for work around 6am. At 6:45 they both left. My husband would drop my son off at McDonald's where he worked and then would go on to his own job. At 6:47 the smoke alarm woke me and I stepped out of our first floor bedroom into the foyer to see smoke. When my husband and son opened the front door, it gave the fire enough air to really take off, but had been smoldering in the basement. I headed to the back of the house thinking it was our woodstove backing up, but then flames shot up through the heat duct in the foyer floor. I yelled upstairs to the three children who were still sleeping, "Get up, get out, the house is on fire!" They came running down the stairs and out the door. The house filled with thick smoke very quickly and the two girls were taken in by our neighbors. It was cold and we were all bare footed. My younger son ran [ in his bare feet] to the fire station that was right around the corner and practically in our back yard. They had already been on the alert because our Cocker Spaniel had been let out before my son left for work and she was barking hysterically. The firemen knew this was unusual for her since she is normally a quiet dog.
Once the children were out, I stood on the sidewalk thinking of our pets. We had a cat, a pair of Cockatiels and their baby who was named Baby among other birds. Baby's cage was in the dining room and he would sit there saying, "Your turn," whenever the kids would sit there and play board games.
And...... there was Lolita. I ran back into the house calling for Max, our cat, and groped around in the smoke trying to make contact with Lolita's cage. I found it! I felt inside trying to find her...nothing. So I grabbed the cage with both arms and just headed for the door knocking stuff over on the way. I couldn't see a thing. The cage was big and I was having trouble pushing it through the door. Just then my daughter's hand reached in through the smoke and helped me get the cage out. It was a miracle that we got the cage out at all.
Immediately after I moved Lolita's cage, a flame rolled up from the heat duct underneath and curled up around our high Victorian ceiling. Outside, Lolita was lying on the bottom of the cage hanging on to a lower perch with one foot and her eyes were glazed over. Once in the fresh air, she amazingly revived very quickly. Tough old bird, she was! With the exception of our Cocker Spaniel, who was at her post in the yard, all the others perished.
Our other wonderful neighbors took Lolita in and kept her during the many tiresome weeks of restoration, and on Mother's Day of that year we were able to move back into our home. Our neighbors enjoyed having her. She was always so polite. They gave us a key so we could let ourselves in when they were gone so we could visit with Lolita, and feed her and clean her cage. And when Lolita came home again, these neighbors would come over to visit with her often. Friendships were made during that ordeal. I was able to buy back some of the Cockatiel babies that had been sold to continue my line of Tiels.
Through the many years Lolita remained happy to be where ever she was. She was not demanding though she could be very loud. In fact, her jungle noises could be heard for six city blocks. But that noise meant she was happy. She was with me when my youngest daughter came into the world. Then later that same daughter learned to sneak away from the table and scrape her dish into Lolita's bowl when she didn't like what was on the menu. More recently our grand children learned that Grandma's old green bird eats anything! She was a tough old bird. We have had many birds come and go since we became serious, avian hobbyists. Lolita remained steady and unassuming as we ooed and aaahed over new babies.
So in Feb. 2007 it came as a complete shock to find this feathered rock of ages struggling for her life. It was a day like any other day tending to our flock. I had moved her back upstairs for the night and was making my rounds through the bird room when I notice all the birds became very quiet. The Indian Ringnecks and the Sun Conures were hanging on the side of their flight cages looking in Lolita direction. I followed their gaze back to her knowing something was terribly wrong. In a matter of moments she was gone.
In reflecting, the years with her just went by too quickly. Lolita is greatly missed and that's probably never going to change. It was months before I could even talk about her passing. It is amazing what these feathered friends can teach us. What is more amazing how quickly months turn into years and they are gone in a heart beat. People often talk about their wish for their 'dream bird." Well, I have had mine and it can't get any better. In years to come I will continue to value the things I learned from that majestic creature.....
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That Bird Place