Okay, it’s been long enough that I can write about this with a mix of humor and terror, instead of just sheer terror.
To begin with, I know nothing about babies. It’s important that I state that for the record right up front. I will probably always know nothing about babies because this area right here is a Baby-Free Zone.
Anyway, I have friends with babies and they read books about babies and stuff. There is a book out that says if you swaddle, (gently) shake, and shush your baby when it cries, the baby will be happy. In fact, the baby will be the happiest baby on the block, although I’m not entirely sure how that is determined. Do they line up all the babies on the block and compare them to see which one smiles the widest? That seems weird to me, but again, I know nothing about babies.
What I do know is that when I am upset, shaking (no matter how gently) does not make me feel better. Also, shushing me when I’m crying is a mistake that is not going to end well for anyone involved. As for swaddling, I haven’t tried that because Redding is just too hot to swaddle or be swaddled. For the record Terry also does not like being shaken or shushed when he is upset. Not that I tried it or anything.
At any rate the swaddle, shake and shush theory was fresh in my mind when we went to Mexico last month. We went to the most lovely resort with so many swimming pools that I needed extra fingers to count them on. It also had a private beach and it was on said beach that I found out parrots also do not care for being shushed.
Throughout our stay at the resort we saw photographers wandering around taking pictures of people with various animals. One day there were incredible iguanas. Another day there were cute little spider monkeys. And then there were the parrots. Hang on a sec, I just need to take a deep breath and go to my happy place.
It is no secret that I am terrified of birds. We have a history. Birds like to poop on me, pull my hair and wreak havoc on me in general. I won’t even talk about the birds who nest by my front door each spring and buzz the tower whenever I try to enter/exit my own house. Or the turkey vultures that nearly made me pee my bike shorts. Horrifying, absolutely horrifying.
Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes, the beautiful private beach. So there we were relaxing on the beach when I spotted the photographer and his assistant walking towards us with two giant parrots. The blood drained from my face and sweat trickled out of my armpits.
“Let’s have our picture taken with the birds!” said Terry, who knows I am terrified of birds.
“No. Way. In. Hell.” I shook my head as the photographer walked closer.
“Please, honey, do it for me.” Terry begged.
“Senorita, would you like your picture with the parrots?” asked the photographer. He might as well have asked if I’d like a pap smear.
“No. Tengo miedo.” I replied.
Roughly translated, that means “No. All birds are in a conspiracy against me and they’ve found me here to peck me to death starting with my eyes.”
Okay, maybe it just means “No. I’m afraid.”
“Tienes miedo de los pajaros?” The photographer and his assistant started laughing so hard that I think they actually cried. Terry may or may not have been laughing with them. I’m not entirely sure because I was keeping my eye on the birds.
“C’mon, honey, do it for my birthday.” said Terry, who never asks for anything. Terry had his picture taken with the birds perched on his shoulders.
“Senorita, c’mon. Take your picture with the birds.” coaxed the photographer’s assistant.
“Come on, honey. These are nice birds.” said Terry, holding one of the parrots in his arms like a baby.
I edged over next to Terry. And then the assistant put one of the parrots on my shoulder. My bare shoulder that only had a bathing suit strap around it. The bird claws were touching my skin! My actual skin!
My shoulders shot to my ears and my head shot backwards, giving me no less than 19 chins. Very attractive, I’m sure.
“Relax your shoulders, senorita.” the photographer said trying to get a decent shot.
I could not relax my shoulders. A giant parrot was on me.
“Saca la foto.” I screeched from between the gritted teeth of my nervous smile.
The bird inched closer to my head and began to caw in my ear. My happy place was nowhere to be found.
The bird began to caw louder, more insistently. Trying to remain calm and not think of how this bird was obviously seconds away from pecking through my skull down to my brain, I thought about that baby book.
“Shhhh, shhhhh, shhhhhhh.” I shushed the parrot while trying to smile at the camera. The bird moved closer and put its beak into my hair.
“Saca la foto!!! SACA LA FOTO!!!” I shrieked as fear ran all prickly through my veins. The bird cawed louder.
“Shh, shhh, shhhh,” I said trying to calm the bird and myself.
There may have been some shouting next. Okay, there was definitely shouting.
“SACA LA FOTO!!! SACA LA FOTO!!!!” I implored the photographer, who was barely able to take the picture because he was shaking so hard from laughter.
Finally the photographer had the shots he wanted. Okay, not the shots he wanted, but shots nonetheless. The assistant removed the bird from my shoulder.
I walked over to where we’d previously been blissfully reading on the beach. The assistant followed me with the parrot on his arm.
“Senorita, pet the bird.” I shook my head.
“It will be like bird therapy.” He placed my hand on the bird and ran it up and down the parrot’s back a few times. After the assistant was sufficiently convinced that I was no longer afraid, they took the parrots down the beach where other people were overjoyed to have their pictures taken with such majestic creatures.
I remain terrified of birds, possibly even more terrified than before. But I have learned two important lessons:
1. Parrots do not like to be shushed.
2. The photographer’s assistant was right. I need therapy.