In 1980, I was busy. I was collecting data for a dissertation from a child guidance center in West Phillie; I was seeing psychotherapy patients at a training institute out in Montgomery County; and in the late afternoons, I fought hard traffic back to Ardmore to make supper for the kids. David would have been 13 years old then, and Rebecca just 10.
It must have been summer, or early autumn, because I see David coming into the kitchen that day, and he is not wearing a jacket. He's not as lanky as he would become, not yet as dashing, but already he has a certain lean and rakish attitude, especially toward schoolwork. He has found a bird cage that afternoon, which he places in a pool of late sun on the kitchen table.
Moreover, the luck of finding this cage has inspired him to purchase a bird for it.
"Look, Mom, a bird!"--and, sure enough, there is a bright, greenish-yellow parakeet. Ardmore is that kind of a town, where a kid can find an old birdcage in an alley and walk along sycamore-shaded sidewalks to a pet shop, and David is that kind of a kid, a person with a knack for making a little money and figuring out how to spend it.
The bird is at first glance a perfectly fine little parakeet, but not much distinguished from other perfectly fine little parakeets you see in the homes of sweet old retired people--David's paternal grandparents, for example, who live a simple, orderly life back in a…