Su Lum: Slumming
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
When my Carbondale family (daughter Skye, son-in-law Steve, granddaughter Riley) and I went to Leadville for Christmas, we were concerned that one of our three dogs might get into it with Hillery and Bruce’s Caique (Kie-yeek) parrot, with my dachshund Nicky being the prime contender for an avian encounter.
Hillery and Bruce’s brand new modern little house in the woods is a showpiece, and if I knew the words to describe them I could write a whole column just about their water faucets. One of the many amenities was the parrot corner with an elaborate cage on a shelf about 4 feet off the floor, a curtain on a circular track to protect the bird from drafts or shafts of light, and a red curtain covering the bottom of the area which was used for storage.
The parrot’s name used to be Wallace, but was changed to Walice when it inexplicably dropped two eggs this summer. He or she rules the roost.
Nicky immediately dove under the red curtain to be close to the bird, Hillery removed a vacuum cleaner and put down a blanket, Nicky nestled in, keeping watch, but there were no incidents.
The ladies played a lot of bridge, and the parrot would entertain us with a noise that Hillery and Bruce described as “screen door” – a metallic scraping noise exactly like the creaking sound of a screen door just before it slams shut. Riley sang us a mini-concert and the parrot “screen-doored” throughout. I think it meant, “Hey, pay attention to ME!”
A couple of times a day we would herd all three dogs: Nick, Freddie and the Skinners’ cockapoo Scout down to the basement room, which last week I described as a “celler” but is more like a garden level with wraparound windows and a sliding door to the paths to the wild bird feeders Bruce tends like St. Francis of Assisi. Riley and I would go down with them – the dogs loved the paths and would run in and out down there while Wallace/Walice was let out upstairs to do his/her thing.
On the night of Christmas Day a thing that none of us expected came to pass: Wallace/Wallice bit Steve in the head, perilously close to his right eye. Riley and I knew nothing about it until the crisis had passed, but a lot of blood had flowed (spurted!), there was talk of hospitals and stitches, the bleeding was staunched, clothing was changed and Steve, who suffered no permanent ill effects, was a very good sport about it.
We had a mystery on Christmas morning when, after all the presents had been opened, two of mine were missing. One was a “The Nature Book” about local fauna written by Janice Huggins, which I had given to Bruce, and the other was the collected works of Shirley Jackson. This latter had been given to me by my friend Bruce Berger – I am a Shirley Jackson fan, but the print was too small for me to manage even with my magnifying glass, so I had passed it on to Riley because many of Jackson’s stories, including the most famous, “The Lottery,” were set in Bennington, Vermont, where Riley attends college. In addition to, “To Riley, with love,” etc., I had written “Bennington” on the wrapping paper.
So we were hunting around for these two books, to no avail, when Riley said, “There’s a present in the refrigerator,” and we checked and lo, there was the package marked for Riley, saying Bennington, but when she opened it, it was the nature book for Bruce.
This is not something you want to have happen in front of your two daughters who have the power to put you in the Home. To this day, I cannot explain how Bruce’s book got in Riley’s wrapping, but I think I know how it got into the refrigerator.
The first clue was that Riley said, “Su, I heard you tell Hillery to put it in the refrigerator,” and I remembered standing in the kitchen putting some ice wine into the fridge and the others were unloading the car and Hillery was bringing things to me, asking where she should put them. Whipped tired and oxygen deprived, I must have said, “Put it in the refrigerator” when what I really meant was, “Put it under the tree.”
As for what happened to the Shirley Jackson book, time will tell. I fully expected to find it on (or under) the kitchen table when I got home, but it has vanished. What I didn’t expect was to open the door that Sunday afternoon to find that my furnace had gone out and it was 41 degrees inside. That’s another story, still not finished.
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User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
The past sneaks up on us in the strangest of ways, and I don’t mean bounty hunters flashing those “Wanted: Dead or Alive” posters in our faces.