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Here’s a pic snapped out of the bedroom window of what we call in this house “Petie”, aka a cardinal aka “bird feeder bullies”.

My Aunt T, Alice, was my mother’s 2nd oldest sister. I don’t know a ton about her. She lived through a 500 yard wood from my Grandmother, in whose tiny ramshackle house we spent many summers in Shady Side Maryland, on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay.

Aunt T's house was actually a dilapidated affair from the turn of the century, that I believe she actually owned and ran as a hotel in the 40’s and 50’s, but at this time in the mid-60’s housed indigent second cousins and other folks that just seemed to - I dunno - live there.

This hotel had no running water. Aunt T had a hand pump in the yard that had to be primed to get to go. I was fascinated by this thing, and I was happy to bring Aunt T water after traipsing solo through a small wood from Grandma’s to visit. “Bring me up a pan of water, would you, Young Buck?” she’d call out. Far, far in away less fond was I of emptying out Aunt T's pee pot. Aunt T was wheelchair bound. But yeah I was like 8 years old so taking that pan of pee out and being careful not to dump it near the well was not a fave chore. There was a slightly screechy tonality to her voice, but it was always somehow simultaneously forthright and kind.

I don’t remember stories and such, but I do recall an incredible friendship she had with a cardinal she called Petie. And I mean she literally called him “Petie”.

“You want to meet my Petie?” she’d ask.

“Sure”, I replied, quietly praying that repayment for meeting Petie didn’t involve emptying anything.

She’d wheel herself onto the porch with a handful of birdseed and shout out towards that woods in that voice of hers.


Onomatopoeia in action, as the call was clearly similar to a cardinal’s actually singing. But when this bird came up chipping to fearlessly feed at her feet, I realized that there was fascination to living, and that sloshing a little bit of your aunt’s pee on the porch steps while careful-walking a 12” white pan was nothing compared to the magic of Petie and the pump.