(*That time was roughly ten minutes or so ago on the geological time scale.)
Okay: it was Christmas and our parents were both alive. Each member of our original nuclear family lived in the very same state.
Had we but known, it was pretty miraculous already.
Morning came with the insistent cooing of a pigeon.
We were habitually careless about locking the apartment door –– it was difficult enough to navigate the patio gate when a person was sober and actually knew where the latch was hidden. So the bird was able to simply walk in.
"Caa-hooo! Caa-hooo!" the bird insisted.
The bird was nonplussed by the Bottacelli vision of my sister emerging from the shower. The reciprocal –– less so. My sister found the pearly-white creature creepy and unsettling in her personal space, but it was unmistakably a bird of peace, so we put out a dish of water, scattered some crumbs on the patio, and shooed it back outdoors.
The next morning, the dove barged through the door cooing. It waddled straight to her bedroom and hopped onto the pile of blankets covering my sister. "Well, F-ing-A Tweetie," my sister said.
We had a propensity to speak the intensifying phrase "F-ing-A" in a John Wayne accent that year. The sobriquet "Pilgrim" was also heard rather more frequently than one might have wished.
The bird fluffed its feathers and settled more comfortably onto the hump of blankets.
"F-ing-A Tweetie," my sister said. "A Christmas miracle."
F-ing-A-Tweetie lived with us for a week, during the cold snap of that Christmas season. Quite tame, the bird suffered itself to be handled and was happy to settle on the back of the couch when we watched television. It was not banded, though it must have been someone's pet. Unless it truly was a Christmas miracle.
At the turning of the year –– by the Festival of the Epiphany, say –– the visitation ended. Day dawned, and no cooing and no stomping around the house. Then another day and no bird, and another. We hoped that F-ing A Tweetie hadn't been eaten or blown into the Gulf, but that might have been too miraculous to hope for a bird of peace flying around in the world.