The Big Owl and the Little Owl

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Throughout my entire life in Córdoba, my weekends and holidays were spent at the house of my second family:

My mother’s friend, Monina, and her daughters, which are my friend Eugenia, who is two years older than me and her little sister Virginia, who is 10 years younger than her.

Eugenia played the role of the older sister all my childhood. She was the one who taught me how to ride a bicycle, to swim, to ride a horse and to get rid of my fears of dogs, of the dark and of bugs. Yes, I was quite the chicken when I was a little girl, believe it or not! And Virginia was our little doll that we took out in toy strollers for a walk and to who we taught how to play cards at three years old…

The only thing I blame her for not doing until this day is not teaching me how to drive! Which explains why it’s only recently that I mustered the courage to take driving lessons and try to reach that goal.

Eugenia’s family has always spent more time by the countryside than in the city. That’s why we shared both worlds: activities with animals, bicycle rides, swimming in the pool and playing sports was at her house. Whereas activities in the city, going to the movies, watching movies and doing the groceries together was when we came back to my house.

We had truly wonderful childhood and teen years; inventing all types of games from simple ones like riding an imaginary horse with a broomstick across the entire village and building astronomical observatories, banks, detective agencies, treehouses and more. Our games and activities changed with time.

When we reached our teens we went discovering mountain rivers but also parties and nightclubs!

My first time camping was with them as well, near a river—in which we swam all the time—, and where we had a hard time sleeping because of all the mosquito bites.

At one time, they lived in a dog breeding establishment in the “60 Cuadras” neighborhood, which was such an entertaining and unforgettable experience. We shared our days with a variety of dogs that followed us everywhere we went and we spent our afternoon playing with the puppies.

Among the dogs, one in particular was our special friend and the three of us were inseparable… but that’s another story.

Then, they built they own house in Santa Anna, a village halfway between Córdoba and Alta Gracia. There, we share even more adventures.

At the entrance of the village was a beautiful cemetery called “La Floresta” and where I go pay my respect to my grandparents. But years before they loved the cemetery, the place was one of our most favorite places of exploration.

There were a lot of trees and we enjoyed sitting there and meditate on our lives and future.

We were already college students and we had only been there twice when employees of the cemetery found little owl chicks, they took them from their nest for various reasons and we ended up taking care of them.

One of the chicks was a striped owl who lived a certain amount of time with Eugenia. It was incredibly beautiful with its big eyes, eyelashes, yellowish feathers and its affectionate and social behavior. It enjoyed having naps as it laid on us and when we stroke its neck. It could stay hours like this.

It became quite big and it did fly out at night to hunt and came back in the morning. Sometimes, it would leave for several days but would always return. One fateful night however when it was sleeping on an outdoor bread oven, a weasel attacked the owl and it didn’t survive.

Eugenia and I always remember that day and we still miss the owl.

The other owl we cared for was a miniature owl, a young tropical screech-owl that I brought to my house. It was less affectionate than the other, but as the days went by, it got used to eat meat off of my hand and stay quiet in its enclosure.

Sometimes it would stay on my shelf, between my plush animals. Anyone who visited me during that time thought it was part of my collection.

One morning, my grandma came to wake me up and tell me that “my little darling” was in the toilet, half-sitting with its legs in the water, and she wanted it out of there!

I hope that this little owl had a better life than the other owl, which I will never know since I gave it to a friend biologist who lived in the countryside and who sometime after, set her free.

It’s difficult sometimes not to know what is going to happen to our dear little animals, we can only hope that they will be able to enjoy a free life, meet a partner and breed, which is ultimately the goal of any wild animal.

And this, I wish for my little screech-owl but also for all other animals that I cared for during a certain amount of time and that went back into the wild, the place they’re supposed to be.

As of Eugenia and her family, we still share a beautiful friendship of course. Even though it has been quite some time since we lived in the same city, we still meet when I’m in Córdoba, in Florida or in Montreal. We always reminisce about experiences we had together and the adventures we imagine we can still live together.

Author: Helena Arroyo

Translation: Noëlla Moussa

The Big Owl and the Little Owl

Amelie Delobel

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