Loving my Mom, Lito and Lita ~ even though my parents divorced, Tony Santiago always visited them whenever the Merchant Marines disembarked in San Francisco.
Bearing gifts from around the world, Tony constantly brought my family exotic dishware and decorations.
On one of his voyages Tony blessed me with a baby Java Temple Bird that I baptized “Billy”.
Gorgeous with his pewter colored body, snow white cheeks, black cap and rosy beak, he was young enough to train and carry him around perched on my finger.
Even gracing me with a hand-crafted bamboo cage, Tony departed after joining us for dinner and reminding Lita to always keep the front door and windows closed.
Because Lita loved Billy as much as I did, she trained him to sit on her shoulder as she cleaned around the house and would often cradle him in her hands and kiss his little head.
On an unusually warm San Francisco day, Lita opened the windows to allow the breeze to come in and Billy flew out.
Both devastated at the departure of our beautiful baby bird, it would take us quite a while to recover from that loss.
Living in San Francisco as a precocious 5 year old minus a father, my life had been entirely changed forever.
When my father flew the coup on that fateful day to never return, he left my mom with the departing gift of maxing out her then 1950's department store credit metal “charge-a-plates".
And to further decimate matters, my dad took all of the money from their bank account to buy presents for his girlfriend and relatives in Puerto Rico.
Santa came early!