The never-ending adventures of a travel writer in Vietnam, Cambodia, New Zealand and throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Parrot's Bubble Gum Ice Cream

Jeremiah was no bullfrog. He was my blue and gold macaw. A parrot originally from South America, his earliest days were spent riding the handrail in the front of a repainted blue and yellow school bus. He rode with my family for 10 days and 5000 miles, looking out the windows on our journey from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, along the Al-Can Highway and ending in Anchorage, Alaska. Jeremiah and I bonded on that trip, sharing perhaps a dozen bubble-gum-flavored ice cream cones, french fries and bags of M&Ms. Before either he or I knew chocolate wasn't good for birds, they were one of his favorite things in the world, although he did tend to eat the peanuts and spit out the chocolate, to my bewilderment.

Jeremiah loved the view from the bus windshield, and seemed to particularly marvel when we stopped to watch a mother moose with calf along the road, or a bald eagle perched in a tree below the snowy mountains.

At the end of the journey and in the years--then decades--that passed, Jeremiah was relegated to the periphery of the house. He wasn't ignored, but 'his corner' was out of the way where his messes (a healthy Macaw is anything but tidy) wouldn't interfere with the rest of the house. He wasn't isolated, but it was perhaps lonely.

I went off to college, and off to work, then overseas to live. One year I came back from Vietnam to visit and was sitting in the living room. While I was watching tv, Jeremiah did something he hadn't done since my childhood. In the back of the house he climbed down from his cage and walked down the hall. I heard the click, click, click of his claws on the wooden floor. He came into the living room, walked around from the couch, and climbed into my lap. I was completely surprised. He looked up and talked to me. Then he looked over to my ice cream and talked to me some more, as if asking permission. I pushed the bowl of ice cream over to him and we shared it. When it was finished he sat in my lap all evening, talking, cuddling and watching tv.

I didn't know that he still remembered those days in the bus to Alaska, so long ago. I assumed he'd hardened a bit in his age. Those times were special to me, but what I didn't realize was how special they must have also been to him, and how the absence of such times with me in his later years may have also impacted him.

I few weeks later I went back to Vietnam. Jeremiah died a soon after.

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