The Adventures of Parrot Man

My four year old son, Peter, has struck up a friendship with an invisible acquaintance named "Parrot Man." You might suppose from the name that Parrot Man was either a Parrot or a Man or a little of both. But there you'd be wrong. Parrot Man is called Parrot Man because he teaches parrots how to fly.

And the "Man" part of his name? It's not clear where that comes from, because Peter informed us a few weeks ago that Parrot Man is actually a koala bear--with a beard (which greatly amuses all the other koala bears where Parrot Man lives).

Speaking of "where Parrot Man lives" that too is a subject of some discussion in our house. Pretty much every day Peter gives us a bulletin on Parrot Man's whereabouts and energetic itinerary. Sometimes, Parrot Man stays at our house (often this is when we are gone). Other times, he likes to live in New Zealand (because this is the part of the map on the wall it is easiest for Peter to reach when he regales us with Parrot Man tales at dinner). But Parrot Man is quite the cosmopolitan traveler despite Peter's short arms. He has been to "Africa, Timbuktu, and even Ohio!"

"Even". I like that.

Parrot Man, as you would expect, has done many fascinating things in his day. He appears to be fairly elastic in the size department. He sometimes sleeps in Peter's belly button. Once he rescued a lot of jungle animals that fell into a big hole (including elephants, which would seem to indicate he was greatly expanded beyond belly button size for the task). Other times, Parrot Man climbs high in the trees and watches us when we are walking in the woods on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound. One particularly memorable time, I asked Peter what Parrot Man was up to today and he announced that our hero was off fishing for sea snakes.

"Sea snakes?" I asked. "Why sea snakes?"

Peter replied, "He just likes everything about sea snakes."

Dumb question, Shea. What's not to like?

Parrot Man appears to have been born some months ago in a late night conversation between Peter and his older brother, Matthew, who invented our fearless pedant of parrots and globetrotter in order to lull a squirrelly younger brother to sleep. From such humble beginnings, Parrot Man has taken on an exciting life of his own in the fertile cerebral cortex of a four year old boy named Peter.

That's what fascinates me. I've owned dogs for years and no matter how many interesting and stimulating sights they see, they don't seem spurred to flights of fancy about it. Other creatures, even nearer to us in the family of critters (such as chimps, great apes, or orangutans) seem similarly unmoved to the sort of creative urges that burst forth from the blond head of my little boy, even when they have had many more years of exposure to such thrilling sights as elephants, giraffes, and wildebeests. One sight of a giraffe at Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo is enough to send Peter into a flight of tarradiddles about the African Adventures of Parrot Man that can last for a week.

This is why I have such a hard time conceiving of human beings as "the same sort of thing" as other animals. Yes, we share something in common with the beasts. But no giraffe, parrot or koala bear is moved to recount the Adventures of Parrot Man. Why, it's almost as though that little kid with blond hair across the dinner table was made in the image of a Creator God or something: the sort of God who makes giraffes, parrots, koalas, and little boys and heaps the gift of creativity on the last of these as if he were his doting Father in heaven.

Copyright 2001 - Mark P. Shea