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The Tower Room

Monday, December 26, 2005

(photo by James R. Hill III)
Our first winter dinner in the Tower Room. Oh, wonderful place. For those of you who don't know, we have a 42-foot-tall tower on our house from which we watch birds. Yes, we had it built. Houses don't tend to come equipped with towers. Bill said from the very first time he climbed our old TV antenna and saw the view spread below him that this house needed a tower. It took us seven years to pull it off, but he was right. You can access the top of the tower via a set of folding attic stairs and a hatch that swings open. You're up in the clear air, 42 feet above the ground. It's like being in a small boat--a feeling of being isolated and above it all. Chet adores it and asks us to set up his special bar stool so he can survey for deer and bunnies.
In the winter, we don't climb up on top as much as we do in the other seasons. No, when it's cold we use the Tower Room, a 10' x 10' glassed in space. When we close the trapdoor, we're all alone there. We haul our dinners up on trays, light two candles, and share a glass of wine before we eat. It's so quiet. The kids know that when we eat in the Tower Room they can do whatever they like downstairs, and they don't usually bug us. Chet, of course, groans pitifully until we carry him up the open stairs to join us. As he doesn't add to the conversation, he's welcome to join us. It's a secret place where we recover our sanity and sense of humor after a long day working or taking care of the kids or (as today) cleaning the house. Is it just me, or do the holidays feel like one two-week marathon of straightening and cleaning the durn house? I swear, I spent almost the entire day disposing of boxes and packaging, and figuring out where to put everything we unwrapped yesterday. How much stuff does a family of four need? Not this much, I'm sure.
Good old Charlie the macaw is on my shoulder, running his rubbery black tongue in and out of my ear. After almost 20 years of this, it's relaxing to me to have him near, and to inhale his good birdy smell. On cold nights like this, he likes to dive down the front of my Polarfleece pullover and hide in the warm darkness. He giggles and clambers around in there, and the yeasty smell of his breath floats up to my nose. Then he settles in for a good preen on my shoulder. At the end of a session, there are feather sheaths all over my clothes. But no droppings--Charlie doesn't poop on me unless he can't avoid it. I toilet-trained him when he was very young, simply by asking him to void before I'd take him on my hand. It's hard to train a macaw with food, so I used myself as a reward. He got it in the span of a half hour. Now, when he feels nature call, he pulls my hair or lightly nips me to tell me to take him to a newspaper or trash can. Unlike a lot of birds I've met, he'll hold it for an hour or more, and he'll let you know when he needs to go. And being a species that roosts in cavities, he holds it all night long. So I suppose a sufficiently addled person could share a bed with a macaw, though it's a bad idea on many fronts. Move the wrong way and you'd have a perforated elbow. I've seen washable "diapers" for birds--how ridiculous. You can ask a creature this intelligent to do almost anything, as long as it falls within the normal range of behavior for the species.


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