Juliette
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The Christmas bird

     Such a racket around the pond! About twenty wild ducks were quacking, each one trying to be louder than the next. They came from far away and they landed there, at the edge of the water, between the reeds, to rest a bit before taking off again on their long trip south to spend the winter where it was warm.
"We have to get going again right away," one of them said.
"No, let's wait till tomorrow morning," the others said.
"Good," decided one of the ducks at the end of a long discussion with lots of time for gossip. "We'll go tomorrow at dawn."

At just that moment, a beautiful bird approached them. It had magnificent green, yellow, and red feathers.
"Can I go with you? I would also like to go south to where it's warm. Christmas celebrations are coming fast. It gets cold here in winter."
"You can't come with us. Your wings are too short. You can't fly fast enough or for long enough. You don't migrate. You're not used to such long trips."
"Please, let me try."
"If you like. You can try to keep up. We leave tomorrow at dawn."

The beautiful bird spent the night at the edge of the pond. It listened, like the ducks, to a lovely concert of frogs and toads croaking under the starry sky and the crescent moon.
The next day, it flew with the others, full of courage and hope. But it soon understood that it wouldn't be able to keep up the pace, despite its best efforts. The wild ducks went too fast.
Little by little, they left it behind. It called to them,
"Wait for me! Wait for me!"
They never answered.
Soon they were nowhere to be seen. They vanished over the line of the horizon.

So the beautiful bird turned around, quite sad.
It flew over the yards of the houses of a little village and landed on the lawn of one of them. A little girl was playing among the flowers.
You know this girl already, Juliette. She was three and a half.

"Oh, hello, pretty bird!"
"Hello, little girl. What's your name?
"Juliette. What are you doing in my yard?"
"I wanted to fly south with the wild ducks but my wings are too small. I couldn't keep up. Winter's going to be here soon. It'll be cold at Christmas. Can I live with you in your house?"
"That's a good idea. Come with me. I'm going to ask my mommy and daddy."
The girl took the bird in her hands and went into the living room.
"Look at this pretty bird, Mommy."
"It is very beautiful, my dear."
"Can it live with us? It doesn't like the cold in winter. I can keep it in my room."
Our friend's mother crossed her arms and said:
"No, Juliette. I don't like that idea. It will leave droppings everywhere. Tell it to make itself at home in the yard."
"Can we go buy it something to eat?"
"Yes, okay."
Our friend went out with her mother to the shopping mall. She chose several kinds of seeds. As soon as they got back, she rushed out into the backyard to feed the bird.
"I can feed you every day. I promise. But Mommy doesn't want you to go in the house."

The next morning, before going to preschool, Juliette noticed that her new friend was huddled on the fence at the far end of the yard. It seemed to be very frightened.
"What's going on, pretty bird?"
"The cat from that house beside yours was chasing me all night. It wants to eat me. It's very scary. Can I live with you in your house?"
"That's a good idea. Come with me. I'm going to ask my mommy and daddy."
Just as the day before, the girl took the bird in her hands and went into the living room.
"Look at this pretty bird, Mommy."
"It is very beautiful, my dear."
"Can it live with us? The neighbour's cat was chasing it all night long. It was trying to catch it and eat it. I can keep it in my room."
Our friend's mother crossed her arms and shook her head, just as she had the day before. She said:
"No, Juliette. I don't like that idea. It will leave droppings everywhere. Tell it to sleep on the roof of the shed at night."
"Pretty bird, go up on the roof of the shed. The cat can't get you there."

The next morning, before going to preschool, Juliette went to check on her new friend.
"How are you, pretty bird?"
"Not very good. The neighbour's cat got up on the roof of the shed. It wants to eat me. Can I stay in your house?"
"That's a good idea. Come with me. I'm going to ask my mommy and daddy."
The girl took the bird in her two hands and went into the living room.
"Look at this pretty bird, Mommy."
"It is very beautiful, my dear."
"Can it live with us? The neighbour's cat got up onto the roof of the shed and tried to eat it. I can keep it in my room."
Our friend's mother crossed her arms and said:
"No, Juliette. I don't like that idea. It will leave droppings everywhere. It has wings, your bird. Tell it to fly up onto the roof of the house. There's no way the cat can climb all the way up there."


The next day, after preschool, our friend found her little bird. It was even more upset. It was trembling.
"The cat climbed up onto the roof during the night. I didn't hear it as it came close. I nearly died of fright when I saw it. If it hadn't mewed, it would have caught me. Can I live with you in your house?"
"That's a good idea. Come with me. I'm going to ask my mommy and daddy."
The girl took the bird in her two hands and went into the living room.
"Look at this pretty bird, Mommy."
"It is very beautiful, my dear."
"Can it live with us? The cat followed it all the way up onto the roof of the house. I can keep it in my room."
Our friend's mother crossed her arms and said:
"No, Juliette. I don't like that idea. It will leave droppings everywhere."

The little girl turned to her father.
"Daddy, look at this pretty bird. The neighbour's cat is chasing everywhere after it to eat it. Could it come stay with us?"
"Your mother already told you no, my dear. But come with me. We will build it a safe space in the yard. We'll build it a little house and put it high up in the tree. The cat won't be able to get up there."
So, Juliette and her daddy made a birdhouse in a corner of the yard. It was a lovely little wooden house, with a feeding tray so they could put out seeds for it. It had a trough to pour water in.
Our friend was delighted. Friends of the bird came by the dozens to see it. They ate and drank and then they sang to thank the little girl.

Then, one day, Juliette didn't see her beautiful green, yellow, and red bird among the others. Nor the next day.
She was worried. Days went by and her favourite bird didn't return. All that remained of it was a red feather. She took it and stroked it across her cheek as she thought of her missing friend.
Christmas was coming. A light snowfall covered the lawn and the roof of the birdhouse. There, many birds of all kinds fluttered about. But the pretty bird wasn't there.

Finally, it returned on Christmas Eve. It had a red, rounded shell in its claws. The bird placed the shell on Juliette's lap. She was playing in the snow with her big brother, Arnaud.
Our friend opened the shell. Inside she found an amazing nativity scene. The donkey and the ox were hardly any bigger than ladybugs. Mary and Joseph were around the baby Jesus, who was resting on a little bed of straw.
Juliette looked at her friend and smiled.
"Wait for me here," she said.

She took the red shell and went into the house.
"Mommy, Daddy, my pretty bird just came back. And look what he brought me!"
Her parents looked in delight at the beautiful nativity scene their daughter held cupped in her hands.
"Stunning," Daddy said.
"Your friend made you a beautiful Christmas present, my dear."
"Can it come and live with us in the house?"
Mommy crossed her arms, then opened them wide and said,
"Of course! We will welcome it with pleasure. It's a Christmas bird."

Juliette opened the door of the house and called to her friend.
The Christmas bird flew into the living room. It perched at the top of the Christmas tree that was decorated with balls and tinsel for the holidays. And then, it started to sing, sing, and sing some more.
It sang for everyone its songs of joy, hope, and light.

 

Translation : Andrew Gordon Middleton