Stories of Immigrant Children … Parakeets

As told by Nayara Tolentino, age 12.

I live in California now, says Nayara. Here, the birds in my backyard are white and brown and black. But in Brazil, the birds were the colors of our flag: green, blue, yellow and white. They were parakeets. If you said your name to them, they would say it back and say it back, and they won’t stop saying it.

But my grandfather, he taught them to sing songs. He taught a thousand parakeets to sing. He would sing a song and sing it and sing it and sing it until the music would get in their heads, and then they would sing it back to him. So when my grandfather wanted to sing, the parakeets would sing along with him.


But everybody thought he was turning crazy when he decided to have a birthday party for his parakeets. My grandmother started calling my mother every day. I would hear them on the phone when I got home from school, and my grandmother would be whispering, ‘Sei pai esta loco.’


I think he could hear her, but my grandfather just went ahead. He invited 100 people and put balloons all over the house, and he hung pictures of parakeets everywhere, too. He bought them candies, chocolates and a birthday cake and food for everybody. No one believed he would do it, but everybody came anyway.


And it was a fantastic party! My grandpa put a tie on every parakeet that was a boy and a ribbon on the head of every girl parakeet. At the party, all the parakeets were flying all over the house, landing on people’s shoulders and singing. Everyone was laughing, they couldn’t stop laughing.

And the parakeets wouldn’t stop eating, either. They’d fly over the table and get the food in their feet and then fly onto the floor and eat it. They would even grab food from people’s hands and out of their mouths, and eat that, too.

It sounds nasty but it was funny. And everyone laughed.

But the best time was singing Happy Birthday. My grandfather started, and a hundred parakeets and a hundred people were singing along.

And then everyone laughed, and laughed, and they couldn’t stop laughing.


. I think they’re laughing still.

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