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I love my garden in the summer…not because of the flowers (mine are rather sad and lackluster) but for the constant songs of the birds. It has taken years, but I have established my yard as the ‘go to’ Bird and Breakfast establishment in the neighborhood.  Sometimes, when the windows are open, it’s difficult to tell which birds are singing the loudest — my inside canaries or the outside birds.

I love that my house, summer or winter, is filled with birdsong. It makes the Polar Vortex almost bearable. Mrs. Beeton spends some time each day in the room with her avian companions and has, over her three years with me, picked up many of their songs. She has become my own special Mockingbird. She has learned canary songs and the piercing squawks of L’il Sis’ parrotlet — ensuring that his voice lives on although he doesn’t. Actually, purely by the force of his personality, his sound also lives on in one or two of the canaries.

Another way of explaining this is that we have a peculiar way of warping our birds. Gill first started the trend years ago by introducing her parakeet Newton (the one recently buried) to birdsongs on the Internet.

Sitting on her bed writing on her laptop, she noticed a tiny face peering around the edge of it. Newton seemed quite intrigued by the bright lights…small minds, you know. From peeking around the corner, he picked up the courage to assault the machine head on. He jumped on the keyboard and starting pecking, then walking on the keys.He sat, mesmerized by the songs that came out of the brightly lit ‘box’ and eventually joined in ever so timidly. His particular favorite was the South American Nightingale. It became the Pavarotti to Newton’s ‘but they told me at home I sounded pretty American Idol wannabe’.

In much the same way one uses the television or a video game to ‘babysit’ for a child for a short interval, Gill left her laptop on and plugged in to the Nightingale songs, closed the door to the room and left Newton in a state of blessed euphoria. One had only to listen behind the closed door and hear him singing his arias along with the ‘bird in the box’.

On her recent summer holiday here, Gill began the ‘Bird Indoctrination’ (Home Schooling’ for the birdie set) program with Mrs. Beeton. She too was enthralled by the nightingale song. From her initial spot a couple of feet away, Mrs. Beeton gradually inched ever closer but was reluctant to take the ‘giant leap forward’ onto the keyboard. We make allowances for this cautious behavior since she, as her name suggests, is a woman of Victorian sensibilities and wouldn’t presume to be so forward.The slightest quick movement by Gill would end badly with Mrs. Beeton jumping up and flapping her wings in a tizzy. Then she’d settle down and begin the process again. She, like Newton, eventually skipped over the keys to gaze raptly up at the 13 inch nightingale on the screen.

This whole process requires a great deal of patience — which I currently do not have. I’m afraid Mrs. Beeton’s tutoring will be put aside until Gill’s next visit. In the meantime, I’m doing my best to limit any ‘bad influences’ to which she might succumb — since she is an impressionable teenager. I refer specifically to the four bluejays that are currently terrorizing my bird feeders. Their raucous early morning squawks awaken us and, if she begins to imitate their calls, I’m afraid Mrs. Beeton will be packing her bags. I’m all for youngsters expressing themselves, but that would be a step too far. Arias, Mrs. Beeton. That’s what we want: arias.

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