The Unusual Birds

We couldn’t have a dog or a cat, because of me.  Instead, we had a Mom-eating guinea pig, a Houdini hamster, a lawn-mown turtle, a perfectly everyday house-rabbit, some escaping fish, and two mentally-ill parakeets.

Poor Little Kid. He Probably Never Gets to Have a Puppy or Kitten. Sometimes, Life Sucks.

The first parakeet was Willie.  He was green when we got him, but pretty soon, he was a gray color, which is the color of a parakeet’s skin.  Willie pulled out all his feathers.

My mom took him to the vet, and the vet said “He is too nervous.  Your house is too noisy with those children.  This parakeet is going to die.”

A Plucked Parrot, Not a Parakeet, But An Equally Sad Sight

Willie lived for another ten years.

But he couldn’t fly, because he didn’t have any feathers.

His cage was up on a stand.  He’d climb down the outside of the cage, slide down the pole to the floor, walk across the floor, and climb up the dining room curtain string to the top of the curtains. 

There, he’d sit up on the curtain rod all day, peering over the top of the curtains down at everyone, with his hunched little back and his little naked head and shoulders.  He looked like a tiny vulture.

This One Guy Has It Almost Right--Still Not Vulture-y Enough

Ah--Here We Go! This Extinct Carolina Parakeet Had It Right!

He snacked on the curtains while he was up there.  They were made out of fiberglass.

The vet said “If you don’t stop him eating that fiberglass, he’s going to die.”

We knew better by then.

Our second parakeet, a blue one, was Tweet.

Rub Beaks With Tweet

I’d asked for and gotten him as a birthday gift, but my mother named him Tweet and thereby made him her bird.

I still think he liked me best.  He’d ride around up on my head.

Sometimes I’d get mad at him because when he groomed me, he’d bite through strands of my long hair, and I’d see a big piece fall to the floor.
Here is another trouble-making parakeet–Tweet and he would have hit it off like gangbusters:

Tweet didn’t understand why Willie wouldn’t fly.  When Willie would walk across the floor, Tweet would keep him company.

The funny thing was, we had wall-to-wall carpeting with looped fibers, and their curved claws would stick to it like Velcro.

So, when people came to our house, they’d see two little birds walking, not flying, struggling to pull their little tootsie-toes loose with every step.

And one bird was totally naked.

People thought we were weird.

Not Willie and Tweet, But Maybe In Their Eyes, It Was


1) Our home was not a peaceful environment, and Willie’s feather-plucking was a sign of stress. I am happy that Tweet came into Willie’s life (and mine), and that the two birds found happiness with each other. If you have a bird with Willie’s problem, see the very helpful site Birds Come First, on Feather Plucking

2) The photo of Tweet is not really a photo of Tweet–sadly, no photos of him remain. The photo came from a sweet site for parakeet and budgie lovers, Budgies Are Awesome.


Michelle Kwon is Smart. It's Always a Good Idea to Write Your Name on Your Skates

Even though I hurt so much in the winter, I still liked to play in the snow, like all kids, and I still liked to ice-skate. 

There is no feeling quite like a new pair of skates.  First, your dad grinds off that stupid extra-low tooth on the bottom of the blade that always catches.  (I wonder why Michelle’s dad didn’t grind it off of hers?)  Then, you lace them up good and tight, so that your ankles are supported when you skate around.

I loved skating backward.  It’s easier than skating forward, because all you have to do is lean from side to side to race along.  I also loved Crack the Whip.  Do kids still play that? 

Everyone joins hands, with the fastest skaters at the front.  When the leader changes direction, in a tight turn, the kids at the end get whipped around really fast.  Sometimes you can’t hold on, and go flying off on your own.  It’s a little scary, and a lot of fun.  

The video below shows a really short whip of four skaters, and only two “cracks”, but it was the only vid I could find to illustrate how very quickly speed accumulates, and what can happen.  Even with only four, the skater on the end can really fly.

I’d only skate for a little while before my feet hurt too much to walk.  Then, I’d hang out at the oil drum, which always had a fire burning inside it to warm our hands.  I wished I could lift my feet up to the top!

A Party for My Cold Hands and Feet!

When we played at home, in the snow in our front yard, I could always run indoors and put my hands in hot water to thaw them.  Then, there’d be a pair of dry mittens waiting, and out I’d go again.   My feet hurt but they stayed dry, because inside our boots we wore plastic bread bags held up with rubber bands.  All the kids did.

There was one outdoor place in the winter where I was comfortable.  After the snowplow came around, it would leave big snow mounds several feet high on the sides of the road, which meant the sides of our property.  We would tunnel into one of the biggest mounds and make a cave. 

This was my favorite winter spot.  I’d take a book in and read (a lot of light leaks into these caves), or just curl up and think.  The inside of a snow cave feels warm and cozy.  Did you ever go in one?

In the winter, after you’re done playing outside comes the best part.  When you come inside, and the warm air touches you, your face burns.  Then, your mom sits you down at the table and gives you a bowl of hot, hot chicken soup. 

There is nothing like the taste of that hot soup.  The hotness spreads from your inside out, and you feel happy, happy, happy.

Almost As Good As Mom's (Since Mom's Came Out of the Campbell's Can)


Victory Over the Devil

Sorry, eager devil-worshippers. The real devil makes only a token appearance in this post. Try


Mwah-ah-ah Red Devil

Aw, He’s Not So Tough!

It happened every night as I lay down to sleep, right after I said my prayers.  I’d snuggle down under the covers, and then, very tentatively, I’d lay my head down on the pillow.  With tremendous relief, I would feel the normal soft, sinking fluffiness of my wonderful, friendly pillow, and I would think that my ordeal was over.  The relief and the release of tension were so tremendous, I would begin to fall asleep immediately.  Just as I was approaching the deepest part of sleep, though, it would happen again:

The devil would reach up from hell, through the mattress and pillow, and poke me sharply in the head with one of his claw tips.

By Victor Bezrukov (Port-42) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Scared Me Witless–No Joke

Up I would jump to sit upright and stiff-backed with fear, eyes wide open, not crying, but with cold tears streaming down my face anyway.  I pictured Satan’s arm extending back from his hand, passing through the mattress, his face just under the bed, smiling at me in the dark.  The poking was to meanly let me know every night that he was waiting for me down there.

Black Devil With White Human Baby in Blanket

The Next Step Could Be THIS.

I was a practical, logical child.  The first night I had been been poked, I had felt through the pillow’s fluff for a pin or needle.  Nothing.  I felt through it again.  Nothing.  Only after I lay down to sleep each night—after saying “If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take”—was I poked in the head by Satan.

Decades later, I still remember the awful terror.  I told no one.   (Children who grow up unnurtured or abused have no one to tell things to.  It is much safer to hide your vulnerabilities from those who would use them against you.)

I loved God, and believed that He loved me.  That is what saved me.  One night, I sat on the bed before saying my prayers, and I thought.  I decided that God would not allow the devil to persecute a little girl by poking her every night with his claw.  Therefore, the poking must not be the devil.  It must be something sharp in the pillow that was very hard for a little girl to find.  My pillow was very thick and fluffy, and my little girl hands were very small.  So:

I put my big pillow down on the floor.  I got a fat dictionary and another fat book and put them on top of my pillow on either side of where I always felt the claw.  Then, I knelt on top of the books.  Then, I pushed and pushed with my little hard fists in the bunched up pillow part in between.  I kept doing this, and worked away for such a long, long time on that pillow.  My faith in God’s love just made me so determined that I was not going to quit until I figured out the mystery.

At last, I found it:  Just for a moment, at my hardest push with both fists, I was able to spy the tiniest tip of a needle poking out.  I got my dad’s needle-nose pliers.  It then took me what felt like another hour of work until I was able to grab and extract Satan’s claw:   a long, shiny embroidery needle.

Large Golden Needle

How Would You Like to Find One In YOUR Pillow?

It had been stuck deep in the very center of my pillow.  The very dead center, stuck in exactly vertically.

I felt so proud of myself:   For thinking logically about God and his love, for figuring out how to apply enough pressure to the pillow, and for persisting for all the time it took to get the job done.  And I feel proud of that little girl now.  Way to go, little B.!  You were so very brave, suffering all those scary nights on your own, with no grownup to go to!  I’m sorry you had to go through that!  And how smart you were, to solve that big problem on your own!

Good girl!

Satan Contemplating Statue in Bronze By Feuchere

Hmm…now that she’s found the needle, what will I do for my next trick?


What I wondered then, and still don’t know if I was overly-paranoid to wonder, was whether my mother had put that needle there on purpose.

Added the Addendum. I left that off of the story when I first posted it because I wanted it to have a happy ending, but the story is not complete without that ending. I was still frightened AFTER finding the needle: This time, not of Satan, but of my mother.

The Bigot Seed–Part I

But That's EXACTLY the Problem...


Role Models

The first time I learned that my parents were racially prejudiced:

Sixth grade.  We’re sitting at the dinner table.  I’m relating some innocent event from school that day.  As I list my friends who’d been there, and get to the name of a black friend, my dad and mom exchange a look. And then, my dad says something about Negros.

I don’t remember what he said.  What stunned me is that he said it about Negros, plural—that he ascribed any characteristic to an entire mass of people about whom I had been raised, by that very dad, to think of as individuals.

What a terrible shock to learn that my parents had only been paying lip service to equality.  I felt utterly betrayed.   And confused:  How could bigots comfortably spout anti-bigotry rhetoric as if they meant it?

Knee Slappers

In eighth grade, I had (yet) another excellent teacher, Miss Blue.  We all liked her so much.  She was pretty and interesting and smart, and she spoke with us kids like we were people.  I quickly grew to love her, the way we do with our wonderful teachers when we are young.

My mother could never hear my Miss Blue’s name without laughing.  Every single time she heard it.  She never got tired of the funny, funny joke:   “But Miss Blue is black!”

It made me feel ashamed for my mother, since she was too ignorant to be ashamed for herself.

My mother used to have another funny joke she loved to tell.  No matter how many times she told it, she thought it was funny, funny, funny.  I never did, because it had no punchline.  Years later, I figured out that it would be funny only if two things were true:  First, if you believed the main character was stupid solely because of her race, and second, if you took great joy in the feeling of superiority this evoked.  The “joke” is that a white male doctor points to a urine specimen cup on a nearby table and tells his black female patient to pee into it.  The black woman responds:  “From here?”

That’s the entire joke.  A rip-roarer.  Only, the joke-teller adds spice by saying the “punchline” while attempting an ignorant white person’s notion of an ignorant black person’s accent.  Like this:   “From hee-yah?”


I Be Laughin' All De Way From Hee-Yah


There.  That surely makes it funny now.


Fitting In

I noticed it suddenly one day.  Everyone else was walking differently than I did.  Everybody else was swinging their arms around like windmills when they walked. 

Animated Windmill Gif

What You All Looked Like to Me

Why were they doing that?  That was certainly strange.  They looked like floppy toy soldiers.


Not Quite As Floppy As This

When I walked, my well-behaved arms stayed quietly at my sides, like they ought to.  I didn’t want to swing my arms around like a lunatic, but I knew it was important to walk like everybody else.  So, that afternoon, I practiced. 

I walked up and down the sidewalk, taking slow, long strides, swinging my arms in time with my strides, until it felt less and less awkward and I felt I could walk like that all the time.  I began to head for home using my newly-acquired technique.  On the way, I happened to spot an older girl walking across the street.  As I compared her gait to my own, somehow it penetrated that what I was doing didn’t match.

Oh, no!  I had gotten it all wrong.  When I’d stepped forward with my right leg, I had swung my right arm forward—right with right, left with left, that had made sense to me!  Now I realized that I had to reverse all the learning I had done—right foot with left arm, left foot with right arm. 

It seemed extremely complicated.  It took me several tries to get through the new sequence.  Once I had it, though, did feel easier than my old way, even if still awkward.  And, of course, entirely unnecessary.   Why did people swing their arms, anyway?


Tell Me It Doesn't Look Ridiculous

After another longer practice session, I was again ready to head for home.  Off I went, proud that I had taught myself to fit in, careful not to make a mistake, swinging my arms precisely. 

Each time exactly as high towards the back as towards the front.  I must have made quite a sight.  Almost as funny a sight as I had made when I walked around the previous years with my arms resting immobile by my sides.

Fellow Aspergians Practice Their Own Smooth Moves


Nonetheless, I’m proud now of that little girl for her perception, adaptability, and perseverance. 

Way to go, little B. !