‘Mum, will I be okay at school tomorrow?’ Georgina asked her mother whilst holding tightly onto her mother’s waist.
‘Oh sweetheart, I think so,’ Georgina’s mother Tammy looked down at her six year old with a smile.
‘Can you promise?
‘Promise me that everything is going to be okay tomorrow,’ Georgina begged.
‘I know you are nervous about going to a new school tomorrow. But I can only make promises to you on things that I personally can do. How about if I tell you a story about a woman called Athena?’
Tammy pulled her daughter to the couch and onto her lap.
‘Once upon a time, there was a mysterious woman called Athena.’
‘Is she a witch?’
‘No, mysterious doesn’t mean bad. Mystery just means that you don’t know or understand. It’s okay to not know sometimes. Keep listening and you’ll see.’
Georgina chuckled and then placed a finger over her little mouth to signal that she would be quiet.
‘Athena was a seamstress. She lived alone in a house on the outskirt of her village. People in the village referred to her as the “Lucky Lady”.
Nobody knew how but Athena was never without an umbrella when it rained. All her customers were nice and they always paid on time. Despite the narrow hilly roads that everyone had to use to get to the next village, she had never been in an accident.
Then there was this big fight in the market some time ago. A lot of people got caught up in the fight. But Athena avoided any injuries or damages because she left the market just before the fight broke out.
“That girl must’ve been born under a lucky star!” The villagers commented.
But Georgina, it wasn’t that. Athena was born on an ordinary day in an ordinary place. She was a regular person like everyone else. It wasn’t her birth that made her lucky. It was something else. It was a special animal.’
‘Mummy, animal? What kind of animal?’
‘Take a guess.’
‘Ahm, a cat?’
‘Nope. Want to guess again?’
‘A penguin?’ Georgina giggled.
‘No, it wasn’t a penguin. Should I tell?’
Georgina eagerly nodded.
‘One day, Athena saw a colourful parrot huddling at the bottom of a tree. The bird seemed to be in distress. She stopped to take a look.
“Oh I see. You’ve hurt yourself, haven’t you?” Athena reached out to stroke the parrot.
She picked the parrot up and took it home to nurse. She made him a comfortable bed for him, disinfected his wounds and gave him water and food.
Once the parrot had recovered, he looked beautiful. He had a long and strong beak. His feathers were of a sparkling bright yellow, red and deep blue. He stood tall and had an air about him. He was regal and majestic.
“You’re looking so much better. Your wounds have healed up nicely. I think I’m going to name you Philly.”
When Philly was able to fly again, she continued to provide food and water for him so that he could come and go as he wished.
During their time together, Athena developed a habit of talking to Philly. He turned out to be a very good listener.
“Philly, I was measuring a customer up today and he was so tall that I had to stand on a chair to reach his shoulder. What a giant of a man. I want to be taller but not that tall.”
“Oh Philly, I’m not sure whether I had done the right thing. I bought twenty yards of fabric from my supplier. I think I might have bought too much.”
“Philly, Martha is having a party next week. I don’t know whether to go or not. There’ll be lots of people there and I don’t want to feel awkward standing by myself.”
“The weather fluctuates so much that I don’t know what to wear anymore. Philly, should I wear the blue dress today?”
She would talk to Philly and consult with him as if he was her best friend. Athena wasn’t expecting any response of course. After all, she’s talking to a parrot. He would not understand. But then one day, Philly talked back.
Athena didn’t think much of it. Then it happened again.
“Oh, now you talk.”
‘Wait mummy, Philly the parrot can understand people talk?’
‘Yes. Philly can understand Athena but he could not speak. He can only squawk. Athena had to learn how to understand Philly. After a while, Athena figured out what Philly was doing.
- One squawk meant Yes.
- Two squawks meant No.
- Philly would only answer her question just once a day, after the sun has set.
More interestingly, Athena learned that Philly’s answers would turn out to be right. For example, when Athena asked Philly if she could trust a new customer who offered to place a big order but would pay her later, Philly squawked twice. So Athena turned the offer down. The customer turned out to be a con man. The other merchants who agreed to the deal were cheated.
As time went by, Athena came to depend on Philly to make many decisions for her.
“Would you believe it? Athena got it right again.” The villagers would comment.
One day, a travelling fabric merchant came to the village. His fabrics were beautiful. The cotton was woven exquisitely and the silk was dyed in the most dazzling colours. Athena knew she could make some amazing costumes with these fabrics and she could charge a lot for them. But the fabrics were very expensive and she could not afford them. Yet, she could not let go of the idea of those beautiful costumes that she could make.
Athena sat by her window to wait for Philly to return that evening so that she could consult with him. Because Philly was such a beautiful bird, she was often fearful that someone would steal him. When she got too anxious during the wait, she paced the room while keeping an eye on the window.
Then Athena spotted him. A black dot appeared against the dark blue sky. It grew bigger and bigger. Then the shape of two big wings came into view. With a flurry of flapping, a large and beautiful parrot landed on the wooden windowsill.
‘‘Philly, I’ve been waiting for you.”
Athena placed a plate of food in front of Philly. There were fruits and vegetables as well as nuts and seeds. Philly’s favourite was sunflower seeds. He dug in and ate hungrily. Once Philly had finished his food, he scratched his large beak with his toes as if he was trying to clean it.
Athena stood in front of Philly and asked, “Philly, I have my eyes on some beautiful fabrics but I can’t afford them. I don’t know what to do. Will I miss this opportunity to get my hands on those fabrics?”
Philly stopped scratching and said ‘squawk squawk’.
“You squawked twice. This means no. Oh Philly, this is so exciting. Thank you Philly! Alright, something is going to come up.”
Athena gave Philly a kiss on his beak and he flew off to his perch at the end of the house to rest for the night.
I wonder how this can happen. Even if one hundred customers turn up tomorrow, I wouldn’t have enough time to service them before the fabric merchant leaves the village. But Philly has never been wrong. Something will come up.
The next morning, Athena went to her mailbox and found a letter. The letter said that she had inherited a large sum of money from her aunt, Robyn. The amount would be large enough for Athena to buy all the fabrics that she wanted.
The timing of this was perfect. As the year drew to a close, the villagers would need to have new clothes for the New Year. This was the busiest time of the year for Athena. With her new fabric, she would be able to delight many of her customers.
The air was thick with excitement with all the New Year preparation. The village was buzzing with activities. All the villagers were praying for a good year and there were many talks about the New Year’s fortune. Athena started to think about what the New Year would bring for her. She wondered if she would have a good year herself.
Well, the truth was that Athena didn’t want to wonder. She wanted the reassurance that she would have a great year. After all, she was used to having Philly help her make the right decisions. However, that evening she asked the wrong question.
“Oh Philly, what a year it had been. How time flies. Will I have a good year next year?’
Athena froze. Blood drained from her face and her stomach dropped.
Did Philly just say NO? Philly said I wouldn’t have a good year. What does that mean?
Athena looked at Philly. He had flown back onto his perch to preen himself. She knew that Philly would say no more for the rest of the night. She had used up her question for the day. She would have to wait. That night, Athena tossed and turned on her bed, unable to sleep.
How bad is next year going to get?
Will I get sick?
Will I get into arguments with people?
Will I lose my business?
What’s going to happen?
Oh I think I‘m going to be sick.
The next day, Athena felt weak and foggy from her poor night’s sleep. She misplaced her mug and spent most morning looking for it. She tripped over a tree branch when she went outside and grazed her knee. She bumped her head on the door and knocked over a glass that she had to clean up. To top the day off, she spilled the soup that she made for dinner. It had been a thoroughly rotten day.
By the time Philly arrived in the evening, Athena was close to tears. She blurted out to Philly, “Oh Philly, I’m falling apart and the New Year hasn’t even started yet. It’s so unfair that you will only answer one question each day, isn’t it?”
“Squawk! Squawk!” Philly flew to his perch to rest.
“What? Hold on, that was NOT my question. I was just talking. Hey, come back. I haven’t got to my real question yet.”
Damn! This is not fair. Philly is toying with me. It’s not funny.
Athena walked over to Philly at his perch.
“Philly, please don’t do this to me. This is not funny. At least let me ask my question for today. I can’t bear this for another day.”
Philly kept preening himself and took no notice of Athena.
“Philly, come on, please?”
Philly was unmoved.
Why is Philly punishing me? It’s not right. He’s being mean.
“Philly, I’m going to ask you one last time. Will you please let me ask my proper question, please?”
Philly buried his head under his wing and proceeded to sleep.
Athena’s face reddened as she felt a wave of anger rising from her chest. She took off her left shoe and threw it at Philly. It clipped Philly on the side and knocked him off his perch. Once Philly found its feet, he took off towards the window and flew into the dark sky.
“Oh no Philly, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do that. I didn’t mean to hurt you. Please come back!!” Athena called out after him.
What have I done?
That night, Athena curled up into a small ball in bed. She regretted her action and hated herself. She bit into her own hand until they were red and swollen. She fell asleep eventually from exhaustion.
The next day, Athena waited all day for Philly. She looked and looked but Philly didn’t come. She was sorry for what she had done. She missed Philly. She was also worried about the bad year that she was to have.
Without Philly, Athena became more tentative, more anxious and more withdrawn. She hated not knowing. She undertook fewer activities to avoid things going wrong. That way, Athena’s world became smaller and smaller.
“The Lucky Lady may have run out of luck. She isn’t so lucky anymore.” The villagers commented.
One evening, Athena sat by the window feeling sorry for herself. She was fed up with not being to do the things that she used to be able to do. She started to sob.
Philly would never come back. I have to face the world without him. I have to make my own decisions and deal with the consequences.
Then she remembered something. When she received the letter about her inheritance, she felt terribly sad. She did not feel happy at all about the inheritance even though it meant she could have the fabrics that she wanted. Her heart ached and she longed for her aunt Robyn.
Aunt Robyn taught me how to sew. I miss her. If I had a choice, I would choose aunt Robyn over fabrics a thousand times.
She also remembered the loneliness that she felt when she was the only person with the umbrella during a freak storm. The villagers were soaking wet but they were laughing with one another.
I don’t care if I got wet. I wish I were laughing with them.
I shouldn’t be scared of what would happen. Whether an outcome is good or bad depends on one’s perspective.
So what if make the wrong decision. This is how can learn to make a better decision next time. As long as I can respond to whatever happens, that’s what’s important. Life has to be lived and experienced.
Athena decided that she didn’t need Philly’s answers after all. However, she did miss him terribly as a friend. She stuck her head out the window and yelled on top of her lungs.
“Philly, if you are listening, I miss you. I’m sorry for losing my temper the other night. I regret it deeply. But I don’t need you telling me what to do anymore. I can make my own decisions now. Just come in for food if you ever feel hungry. Your bed will always be made for you.”
From that day on, Athena would throw out seeds and nuts each day in case Philly ever dropped by. A smile returned to her face and she felt strong again.
“Looks like the Lucky Lady is back,” the villagers commented.
When the villagers saw Athena throw out seeds and nuts each day, they decided that this must be how she got lucky. They started to copy the ritual and threw seeds and nuts out their windows too.
Then the birds and squirrels got lucky with the sudden abundance of food around. They made bigger families and the village became famous for having lots of birds and wildlife. It attracted many visitors each year and brought the villagers lots of business. The village became prosperous and was later renamed to “The Lucky Village”.
So Georgina, do you like that story?’
‘Yes, mummy. It was a nice story.’
‘Do you still need mummy to promise you that you will be fine tomorrow?’
‘No mummy. I don’t need you to promise. But mummy, can we have a parrot?’