Canaries for Christmas

1.0 kopecky 2012-12-20 at 8.57.55 AMBy Adele Kopecky

The hot water gushing into the dishpan prevented Marie from hearing Gino enter the apartment.  She started when he kissed her on the back of the neck, but recovered to turn and throw her arms around him.

“I didn’t expect you home so soon—no waiting at the barbershop?”

“I didn’t get my hair cut.  I ran another errand,” Gino replied.  “Come look!”

His arm around her waist, he led her into their small living room.  There on the scarred maple coffee table, was a brass cage, and perched within was a canary, a bright yellow canary whose wing feathers were tipped in black.  It cocked its head this way and that, looking at Marie first with his left eye and then his right.

“Oh, Gino—he’s beautiful!  He looks just like the one…..”

Christmas morning … I’m  years old … I creep down the stairs in my Dr. Dentons before anyone’s awake.  The sun isn’t up but in the early gray light I can see the hump of the sofa, the sturdy boxlike shape of the Stromberg Carlson radio standing in the corner, the mound of the big easy chair where Momma and I cuddle to read my storybooks when she feels well enough.  On the end table stands a little tree with its unlighted candles, the ornaments—bright red and green and gold when Daddy and I hung them on the prickly branches yesterday—now only colorless balls.  The silver strands of tinsel last night had reflected the candlelight, but this morning they look like hanging cobwebs. 

But standing on the ottoman is something covered by a dark cloth.  A scratching, rustling sound—something alive!  I lift a corner of the cloth and a beady black eye peeks out at me from between the brass bars …. 

“You told me how much you loved the canary you got for Christmas that last year when your parents were still alive.  I thought, I thought, maybe you wouldn’t feel so alone here if you had another bird …?” Gino’s voice trailed off in a questioning tone.

Marie blinked quickly and buried her face in Gino’s chest, “Thank you, darling.  He’s perfect!”

Chippy had traveled with her to Beth’s……..

The huge black train stands huffing and puffing and belching black plumes of smoke as we walk into the station.  A smiling black man in a bright red jacket carries our valises away.  Aunt Beth has a small suitcase in one hand and holds my hand with the other.  I carry the cage.

             “Don’t be afraid, Chippy.  I’m right here and I won’t let go of you.  You can sit on my lap when we find our seats.  We’re going to live with Aunt Beth and Eve.  I know Eve will like you, and I hope she’ll like me, but you’ll still be mine, my Chippy.”



Adele Kopecky lives in Irvine, California and writes of little-known folks of past years whose stories she thinks deserve telling.  Although some of the characters are based on people she knew or heard of, most exist only in her stories.

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