Magic happens, and nothing is impossible. One Easter, when I was about five years old, a bird landed on our backyard washing line. Dad, who was shaving at the kitchen sink, put down his razor and peered through the window, “Is that a budgie perched on our washing line?”
We tiptoed into the garden to investigate, hoping the bird wouldn’t fly away. In England, where I was born, budgies don’t live in the wild. They live in cages, one or two per tiny cage parked in the living room, nodding and pecking at their reflections in tiny play mirrors, broken records of their masters’ voices, cocking their heads from side to side, watching you. I knew this because my granny had a budgie.
“He must have escaped,” Dad pronounced. “Look, he’s got a big bump on his head. Maybe he flew into a wall, got knocked out, forgot his way home.”
“Hello Joey,” said the budgie, opening and then resettling his wings.
Dad offered a finger as a perch, and Joey climbed on. We made him a temporary cage, a cardboard box with a cellophane front for a window. We made pinholes in the cellophane so he could breathe.
“We can’t keep him,” said Dad, writing some big, capital letter words on a plain postcard – FOUND. BUDGIE. SAYS HIS NAME IS JOEY. The local newsagent put the card in his window. But no-one claimed Joey.
I waited in the spelling queue at my teacher’s desk, piece of paper in hand, to ask how to spell budgie so I could write my news for the day. The teacher told me budgie was short for budgerigar, and budgerigars lived in the wild in Australia.
Now that really excited me, because as an even tinier child I had dug a hole in our back garden with an old dessert spoon, hoping to dig through the middle of the earth and come out the other side in Australia. I had a globe in my bedroom, and I had seen Australia hanging upside down on the bottom of the earth. I was curious.
Eventually Dad bought Joey a cage, with a perch, a mirror, a piece of cuttlefish to sharpen his beak, and all the other accoutrements. The bump on his head fell off one day, and we laughed ourselves to tears. It was a seed shuck that had somehow got trapped under his crown feathers.
Joey lived in his cage in the corner for many years, performing his lines every day, over and over again, instructed and rehearsed by Dad. His verbal repertoire was recorded on a long piece of paper tucked into the space between his sand tray and the bottom of the cage. After a few years, we had to turn the paper over and write more on the other side.
A budgie was about as exotic as birds got in our neighbourhood. I had seen pictures of kingfishers with bright blue chests, and I had heard that budgies were small fish, so to speak, compared to parrots.
So, you knew where this story was going by the seventh paragraph, didn’t you? Australia dropped off my agenda shortly after I got tired of digging with my spoon – or was it because I was reprimanded for making a big hole in the middle of the lawn? I had no wish to live in Australia, and when we did come here for a three year stint, I looked forward to returning home. Here I am, nearly 27 years later, and here is home, Brisbane, Australia. A magical place and I wouldn’t be anywhere else.
Even here, in the heart of the city, parrots, lorikeets, rosellas and other colourful parrot-like birds are a common sight and background music to daily living, especially and magnificently when rain blesses our tropical trees with fruits and seeds. I think I’ve only seen a budgerigar once in the wilds here, but whenever I bask in the sight of parrots flitting amongst the trees, or waking me from dreams with their dawn chorus, I remember Joey and digging my hole to Australia with that old dessert spoon.
Who would have thought? Nothing is impossible. When you dream big and take your first steps (even with an old dessert spoon), magic can happen, even if you don’t recognize the gift when it’s finally delivered. And here’s a greater thought to keep your heart in the right place throughout: Your every day reality may be someone else’s dream.