Some religions have household gods, mostly beneficent (occasionally mischievous) beings who look over the house and bless it with their presence. For nine years we have had such a creature in our house — our parakeet, Hermes, who died Saturday. He had never known a day of sickness and lived a most happy life. And because of him, we were happier, too.
When we bought Hermes for $17 from the local pet store, Suzanne was in seventh grade and had hours to spend with the baby bird. She coaxed him gently onto her finger, moving her hand ever so slowly up to her face so she could look at him eye to eye. His little striped head bobbed up and down as he sidestepped back and forth on her finger. Suzanne liked to mother Hermes and every night would read him the story “Goodnight Moon.” Before he was a year old, Hermes began saying the words “goodnight” and “moon.” Later, more confident, he strung together “goodnight” with “Hermes.” Soon he added new words to his repertoire, “I love you” and “good morning.”
Our house was livelier in those days. The phone was forever ringing, the radio was blaring, children were bouncing balls and skating through the kitchen. All was chaos and Hermes was in his heaven, bobbing above it all in a wire cage suspended from the ceiling.
The children grew up and entered their own lives, but Hermes remained, talking, singing and sneezing (he learned to mimic a human sneeze — apparently we sneeze so much that he thought it was our call). Hermes chirped when he heard the garage or front door open, or when the water was running in the sink. All these noises he knew intimately, because they brought people to his side — his flock, his family.
Maybe it's because he could talk, but there was just something about Hermes, the way he cooed when we were close together, his intellect and his emotions, that made us love him all the more. And he was such a plucky little guy. Even his last day with us he was still chirping and sneezing and ringing his bell. Hermes weighed only a few ounces but he filled the house with his love. It is quiet without him.
Because of Hermes, I have a higher opinion of all animals, especially parakeets. Because of him, I listen carefully to the sounds of our house. Because of him, I have developed the habit of looking up. Hermes lived longer than I ever dreamed he would. But he didn’t live long enough. He didn’t live forever.