nail shop parrots on winter break.

I am on Winter Break now (notice: I am writing again). I have 17 days to myself (mostly), with zero accountability for anybody else's brains or learning styles. This is what Freedom truly feels like.

Miss M is excited about Santa and opening presents in ways no words in any human language can accurately describe. On Monday, we are going to visit Santa Claus in person. She thinks he's an online amazon.com catalog: "Mommy, when I see Santa on Monday, I'm going to order a Frozen princess doll! And I'm also going to order a fake kitchen with some toys."

On Christmas Eve morning, we always decorate cookies with her cousins and some friends and make magic reindeer salad and oatmeal glitter for the reindeer. And then we watch a puppet show at my mom's (her Grammy's) Methodist church. (Off-topic side note: I have a deep-seated belief in Something Out There, but have serious issues with organized religion. For instance, I generally really dig Jesus but gaze with wary eyes on many of his followers. And I think there is more than one path to God and no one religion holds all the answers and it's arrogant to assume (a) you know which team God roots for the most, and (b) you know the mind of God in general. Still,  I'm a total sap for that moment we're all standing around with our fellowship-lit candles singing Silent Night and wishing Baby Jesus a big old Happy Birthday to You, Sir of Peace. In fact, I'm tearing up right now, just thinking of it.) And every year, we do Santa's Portable North Pole (PNP). Do you know about it? You should. Here's why: Santa's Message to Melissa. And no, I did NOT tell Santa he could go ahead and put little Miss M on his Nice List. If you'd been around little Miss M for much of 2013, you'd understand why. I mean, she'll make it...but by the skin of her teeth.

My Art of the Story class has concluded. I completely flaked and never wrote my 700 word story that I was supposed to for Assignment #5. However, I have one to write over the next 17 days for when we meet again. Because good news! About 6 of us in the class loved each other SO much, we've hired the instructor to continue the experience throughout January and February at a lovely local restaurant's private dining room. Food, drinks, storytelling, budding friendships, and merriment. Life simply doesn't get better than that, reader friends.

I'm in a quandry, though. Recently, I experienced some most awesome human interactions from which to craft stories: (1) the parrot lady in the nail shop, (2) the pregnant woman breaking up with her baby daddy during a football game, and (3) the crazy knitting lady at the craft store. Which one would you most like to read about?

That's what I thought. Let me tell you about the parrot lady in the nail shop:

When I went to get a manicure/pedicure two weeks ago, I sat down to wait for my chair to be ready, and some lady was speaking to some creature in an animal cage. Seriously. Speaking to it, encouraging it to cluck like a chicken. This lady is CRAZY, I thought, as most humans are wont to do when confronted with people who take avians into traditionally non-avian locations. After awhile, the lady took the animal from the cage. It was an African Grey parrot, and she sat in her spa chair nuzzling its neck and making grunting sounds at it--when not requesting it cluck like a chicken. Then, then.....they sat me next to her. This was most fortunate, because I happen to love being sat next to eccentric people with little regard for societal norms and standards.

So I'm to the right of the bird lady. On the other side of her is a pregnant lady texting on her phone. In front of us is a lady with her back to us, getting her fingernails done. The two nail shop workers are busy/deep in thought. Nobody--I mean NOBODY--appeared to be the slightest bit concerned or even casually aware that this lady HAD A PARROT ON HER KNEE.

Friends, it was too much. Too much. I mean, can we all just acknowledge that this lady in this nail shop had a parrot on her KNEE?? No. No, we couldn't; I was the only one willing to acknowledge and deal with. And I knew. I knew I could simply not just...sit there. I could not just sit there, get my nails done like no big deal, yeah a parrot in the nail shop, whatever. And then let the woman pack up her bird and leave, never once acknowledging: Hey Lady. Um, why'd you bring a bird into a nail shop?  Who in the world doesn't deal head-on with people who bring parrots into non-pet shops? 98% of the people at that nail shop two weeks ago, that's who.

Thankfully, my parents bought an African Grey parrot while I was in college. So I had a connection! I told the lady this, and let her know our African Grey had been called "Max." What was her African Grey's name? Miles, she responded. Mrs. Miles, actually.

And for the next 25 minutes she delivered a fascinating monologue about Mrs. Miles and the history of Mrs. Miles. For example:

*Mrs. Miles lays eggs every Spring. Laying eggs makes Mrs. Miles egg-constipated and hormonal, and this makes Mrs. Miles extremely vicious. Lynne (the parrot lady) had no less than 1,000 beak slash marks on her arms and hands.

*Mrs. Miles is toilet-trained. Yes, toilet-trained. And every morning when Lynne wakes her up, Mrs. Miles says, "I have to poop." Then she climbs out of her cage, over to the nearby bathroom, climbs up, and, well, poops. Isn't that magnificent? I think that's the most magnificent thing I've heard all of 2013.

*Lynne, her husband (god love him), and Mrs. Miles live with eight--EIGHT--cats. All eight cats are terrified of Mrs. Miles. Terrified. Mrs. Miles once tried to murder one of them, and she bit the tail off another. They all know what Mrs. Miles is capable of, and they furiously try never, ever to make eye contact with her. They give Mrs. Miles a wide, respectable berth when she's about.

But the most awesome part of the whole experience was when the lady with her back to us turned around and realized, "Oh my god! There's a BIRD! I heard some weird sounds; I thought someone was passing gas. I was trying to be polite and not say anything...but wow. There's a BIRD!" And then proceeded to tell us all how terrified she was of birds.

Then, the most awesome of awesome parts of the whole experience happened (and this is why I love other human beings so deeply and completely): the lady in front of us told Lynne she knew African Greys can go for 1,000s of dollars, and asked Lynne why she didn't sell Mrs. Miles and make some money? This was Lynne's very somber and quiet response:

"Oh, no. No, I wouldn't sell this girl here for $1,000,000. Mrs. Miles and I have been together a long, long time. I've seen her through a lot, she's seen me through a lot. We've been together through thick and thin, so she's worth much more to me than any money. I love Mrs. Miles and I'd be lost without her. I can't imagine the world without Mrs. Miles in it. She's my sweetest, best friend on Earth."

So. I walked in to that nail shop going: OMG! A crazy lady!! But by the time Lynne and Mrs. Miles walked out the door, I was begging for Lynne's phone number. I'd fallen deeply in love with both--just when I think the world is full of the nefarious and frightful, I meet a Lynne and her Mrs. Miles. People like Lynne and her Mrs. Miles remind me why this crazy little rock in the Milky Way is actually chock-full of sweetness and light, in spite of right wing talk radio and the Kardashians.

Which is why I probably will not write my 700 word story for workshopping about that. I will probably go with the pregnant lady breaking up with her baby daddy via phone during a football game for the story. Word to the wise, friends: if you don't want to end up in some budding, unpubbed writer's short story for a writers' workshop, do not--DO NOT--have your crazy on display in public. Don't do it! For the record: turns out, Lynne & Mrs. Miles weren't actually crazy after all; they were sweet and good and kind and lovely. The baby daddy thing, however, was pure de-Crazy.

However, I might still add Mrs. Miles to the story--I think baby daddies who abandon their babies at the very last minute via phone during a football game should totally be turned into eunuchs by hormonal African Grey parrots. It makes a satisfying ending. It may win me a Pulitzer. And I'm totally dedicating my first novel to Mrs. Miles.