He was my bird.

Or was he?

My grandparents, who were my guardians at the time, had bought the hatchling from Helene Krebs as a gift for my 11'th birthday. We would feed him Maizena, a gruel made from corn, on the patio of our rent house overlooking the bay of Zihuatanejo. This seemed a grotesque ritual to me and my grandma Tessa ended up having to do it. At first Guaca (a guacamaya or military macaw) was anything but pretty to look at. He looked like a miniature plucked chicken. Pin feathers stuck out from wrinkled flesh stretched over awkward bones. Still, the feedings were successful and the bird grew. Eventually, green, blue and red feathers replaced gooseflesh and pinfeathers and my oversized parrot became an adult.

We lived on a bluff over the beach, called "Playa La Ropa", where flocks of military macaws lived in a semi-wild state. Guaca soon began to join them on patrol as they flew up and down the beach. I could call to him from the sand and he would leave the flock, one speck separating from many, and circle down, growing larger and larger to land on my arm. That really freaked out the tourists.

La Ropa beach was a short walk down concrete winding steps from the house and most of my afternoons and weekends were spent exploring the rock outcroppings at our end of the stretch of sandy shore. I didn't bother with snorkel or flippers, just a small mask and swim trunks between me and nature. It was like spending hours in a tropical aquarium.

The hotel "Las Brisas" was right across a ravine from our house. I walked a few miles to school and back each day and would walk down the path to the house doing an eleven year old imitation of a Tarzan yell/yodel and the workers at Las Brisas would echo my call. Sometimes my grandparents would befriend folks who were lodged at the hotel and I would likewise find play companions who were there with their folks. One such family was vacationing from Mexico city. My grandparents hit it off with the couple and they had a son around my age who would play on the beach with my younger brother, Robbie, and me. They also took quite a liking to my half-wild macaw. It was getting close to time for me and my brother to return to the U.S. to live with my mom and new stepdad. My mother's breakup with the last stepdad was the reason my brother and I got to travel with her parents and live in Mexico.

My erstwhile guardians had decided to leave the decision of Guaca's fate to my young judgment. The couple from Mexico City had offered a hundred pesos to take the bird and decorate a perch in their city home with him. This seemed like a lot of money to me. Now twelve, I wanted to buy some gifts to take home with me to my sister and my other brother who had been farmed out with the other set of grandparents.

The scene, which now haunts me, was on the roof of our rent cottage. My grandma and grandpa, Guaca, a crate, and a pair of scissors. And me, of course. I had been told that it was my decision if I wanted to sell the bird, but that I would then have to clip his wing feathers. At one point I remember my grandma saying, with tears in her eyes, "You're cutting too close...you're hurting him!" My reply, "So what? He's just a dumb bird!" The wisdom of a twelve year old boy.

The souvenirs that were purchased with the 100 pesos (about $8.00 U.S.) were soon forgotten. The choice I made that day will go with me to my grave.

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