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How a tiny birdcage brought back memories of my grandpa

I dearly loved all my grandparents and each was special in their own way. I want to say that my mother’s father and I had the most special relationship, but that isn’t fair. We did, but so did Grandma and I, and Papaw and I and Mamaw and I. Each was different.

Grandpa called me his “gal”. I was his most well behaved grandchild and it didn’t hurt that I was the only one who lived in the same town. We’d sit on the front porch swing and he’d peel and cut apple slices for me. With his dirty pocket knife. Oh, he’d wipe it off on his pants first and the germs, of course, never made us sick. That’s one of my favorite memories or our time together. The other was the words  I’ve got some new baby birds! You see, he raised parakeets.

My first recollection of him and the birds was when I was 5 or 6 years old. He had an unpainted wood shed where he kept the birds. When there were babies, he’d lift me up to see in the nest. Those ugly beautiful little birds always had their mouths open and they were all mouth. Scrawny, featherless mouths. But I so loved seeing them and that was one of our special times together. So when I found this little birdcage at an antique mall the other day, all those memories came flooding back. Not that they’re ever that far from the surface anyway.

It came just like that with the bird in the nest and the bottle. $10.00. I’d gone in just to breeze through, but had to spend that $10.00. I believe it was a cage people took their bird home in when they bought it or perhaps they bought the cage later if they wanted their bird to travel with them. Or who knows? Maybe it’s for baby chickens. I really have no idea. But I also wonder if Grandpa had some? I don’t know what era this is from. Maybe it’s older than he would have used. I simply can’t remember how he got his birds to their new owners.

It’s funny how different things can trigger memories. This particular memory can also be triggered by the smell of hay and birdseed. I’ll never forget being at the library once when a man came in who had that smell to him. It made me want to cry. I wanted to be near him. Wanted him to be my grandpa. Imagine my shock when he left and the library workers turned up their nose and talked about how he smelled like a wild animal. Huh? Is that what people thought my grandpa smelled like? That made me so sad.

One final thing about Grandpa. He got Alzheimer’s. In 1976 they called it hardening of the arteries. It was heartbreaking to watch this man who once said he’d “work til the day he died” slowly slipping away from us. I’d bet most of you reading this have been affected by this disease in one way or another, too. Shortly before he died he was in the hospital. I stopped by to visit and Grandma, in the way people will do said, “Do you know who that is?” His eyes had a moment of clarity and he said, “That’s my gal!” and he left us again.

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Hi! I'm Wanda, the owner of Just Vintage and this is my blog where I talk about buying, selling, and decorating with all things vintage. I want to help you learn what to buy for resale and maybe give you inspiration in decorating, even if it's what NOT to do.

10 thoughts on “How a tiny birdcage brought back memories of my grandpa

  1. This made me cry. My dad had Alzheimer’s and to this day, the smell of certain types of tobacco remind me of him. With my mom, the scent of Chanel No. 5 reminds me of her. Every time I get a whiff of this perfume in a store, I instinctively look around for my mom.

    A great post!! Very touching.

  2. That made me cry. Mom is having memory problems and very scared about it.

  3. Oh no…now I’m crying too….What a bittersweet story….You were so lucky to have had such a wonderful relationship with your Grandfather. Vanna

  4. Not only is that darling, but the memory makes it that much sweeter!

    I love when something goes “deeper” than just it’s cunning appearance.

  5. Awww, what a sweet story. I love that you were able to find something to remind you of your grandpa. Then your last memory made me cry. I know you must have been so happy that he remembered you.

  6. It is wonderful how smells trigger memory. I have a mid century modern lamp that smells like camel cigarettes and normally I would get rid of it but it smells just like my daddy and every time I turn it on I just have a rush of him coming back to me much as you had with the man in the library.

  7. Such a sweet post. Thanks for sharing! It triggers memories for all of us!

  8. picture of uncle dee made me think of my mom, his sister, they both had the same mouth and I can remember Momma talking on the phone to Aunt Autrey for what seemed like hours to me.

  9. what a nice post…brought a tear to my eye. g-ma is still with us and has alzheimers, g-pa passed last spring. they were gardeners and their house always smelled like the earth, i loved it. butterfly gold pyrex cup and saucers also remind me of them because they drank their Sanka coffee from them 🙂

    i love your writing style and am now following you. found you via late night coffee’s digest, i was featured too 🙂

  10. Oh Wanda what a WONDERFUL post….I’m GLAD you found this little Treasure to remind you of these memories so you could share them with us….!!

    My Poppy (Mum’s Dad) died when I was only 7 but the moments we share were ETCHED quite deeply in my young mind….Two of which I’d like to share….

    We lived an hour away in another town & whenever we visited Poppy would sit me on his knee, take his old leather wallet out off his pocket & give me a $1 note….I would take this dollar EACH time & put it to my nose & sniff deeply….I remember as if it was yesterday the old paper smell mixed with the smell of old leather & aftershave….To this day WHENEVER I receive money….Be it at the market when I have a stall….At the supermarket when I’m given change….You name it….I bring the notes to my nose & smell….!!

    Poppy also kept birds….Specifically Galah’s….He would take me into his aviary to talk with Peppy when we visited & let Peppy ‘kiss’ me which he would do so by holding my lip GENTLY in his beak while cooing softly….MAGIC….!

    Aren’t we both so VERY LUCKY….!!!!!

    I look forward to catching up with you again soon….!!

    Cheers for now,
    Tamarah :o)

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