The Parrot and the Chocolate Shop

By Veronica

A while back, I took my two oldest girls with me to a chocolate shop. I don’t want to mislead you; this is not a common occurrence. My girls are not compliant little angels who float in and out of candy stores without slavering or mussing their wings. But every now and then, when the winds and tides and stars align, I decide they can manage it.

The purpose of our visit was to buy my husband a box of bourbon chocolate-covered cherries. These are his favorite. I got the girls in the car, discussed Best Behavior for the umpteenth time, and arrived at the confectionery with two solemn promises to abstain from touching, whining or running.

And they did great. It’s a small store, so I could see them the whole time, and if anyone’s fingers looked itchy, a stern reminder from me was enough to settle them back down. There was one other customer in the store, an older woman who watched my girls with a look of wonder and approval on her face. After I made my purchase, she also paid for her selection and followed us out the door.

Once we were all in the parking lot, she stopped me. “Your girls were so good. Can I give them this for being so good?” The woman held out an enormous chocolate-covered rice crispie treat on stick. Lest this treat be accused of being too subtle, it was also covered in M&Ms.

I don’t know how you all feel about accepting gifts from strangers. It seemed unkind to refuse such an enthusiastic gift when I was confident, standing two feet outside the shop, that there was nothing wrong with it. I accepted the offered treat, but told the girls they would need to wait till later to eat it.

The girls, still in angel mode, thanked the lady quite properly. Then they saw the bird in her car.

Our new friendly candy-pusher had an eclectus in the passenger seat of her car. These are gorgeous birds from the Solomon Islands, psittacines with flamboyant colors and the playful mimicry that pet-owners love in all parrots. My girls oohed and aahed over this beautiful bird, and the woman began to tell the girls about having a bird for a pet.

I got a knowing feeling. I have spent some time with the bird-owning crowd. Before I had kids, I used pet birds as the substitute objects of my maternal affections. Of course, I never would have admitted it then. As the woman warmed to her subject, I said, with a small feeling of dread, “We have two cockatiels at home.”

And then the gleam of fervor lit in her eyes. She began to interrogate me about my birds. Did I feed them properly? Where did I buy bird food? What kind was it? I knew, didn’t I, that birds need fresh greens and beans and nuts and fruit? What EXACTLY was I feeding my birds?

That’s right. She was asking me all these questions as I was holding the enormous, chocolate-covered, M&M-bespeckled, marshmallow and butter confection that she had just bought for my actual human children.

I thanked her again, politely extricated myself from the conversation, buckled the girls into their seats, and drove off. Later that day, I cut up the Insulin Shock Bar and divided it between the girls.

The cockatiels did not get any.

Veronica Mitchell blogs at Toddled Dredge.

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