I was ten when my grandmother died. We went to her house in Edinburgh to clear out her things and ready the house for sale. Along the way, I found a painted metal parrot and fell in love with it. I wanted to keep it and take it home. Apparently, my aunt had liked it when they were kids and my mother hated it. Her attitude hadn’t changed. I still took it home and put it on the piano lid. I thought it looked great. Mother never mentioned it, although I’m sure she dusted it once in a while.
Fast forward a couple of years and we were going to Canada. More discarding of ‘precious’ goods, one of which my mother hoped would be that damned parrot. I buried it in the bottom of the crate with the piano when she wasn’t looking and off it went to Canada ahead of us.
We flew to Canada with our suitcases and the clothes on our backs, 19 hours from Prestwick to Toronto in a prop jet with a refueling stop in Thule, Greenland. A short flight beyond that to Windsor and our new home. Adventures awaited, as did the crates and my father, who’d flown over ahead of us.
The crates came along a conveyor belt and the customs official asked what was in each one. Mother told him and he put a big X on top of each as it passed. Until we got to the piano crate. When Mother said, “It’s our piano,” the customs official said we had to get it approved by the vet.
“The vet?” my father asked. “Why?”
The customs official wouldn’t tell him. I was afraid the problem was the parrot, but wasn’t going to say, since I assumed Mother didn’t know about it.
Feeling foolish, my father went into a phone booth (yes, it was that long ago) and called the first vet in the yellow pages. “No problem,” the vet said (he’d presumably had similar calls in the past), “have them put the crate on your front porch, but don’t open it or you’ll lose it.”
A few days later, the vet appeared, opened the crate, approved it, and explained that he was looking to see if the piano was packed in felt, which it was, or in straw, which might have meant hoof and mouth disease, a risk for cattle. Straw was a no no and the piano would have been burned, but our movers knew the rules.
My parents arranged for the piano to be taken out of the crate and reassembled. I waited anxiously, hoping to get the parrot out before Mother saw it. I thought I’d bury it in my room, so I could break it to her gently that I’d kept it. But she’d outfoxed me. It wasn’t there.
I often wonder where it went — and on which continent it ended up.