The Universe and Pete
Story told at ReStory showcase December 2018 at Life in 10 Minutes
by Donna Johnson Edwards
I was five years old when I first held the universe in my hands. I've reflected back on my life and I see it in a framework of my pets! Now I have three beautiful Bichon Frise dogs Bianca, Liberty and the baby Maxi Mae.
But there was a time when my very best friend on Earth was a blue, green, & yellow parakeet named Pete!
The way he came into our lives is typical of the weird way most people entered our lives! Mom was sweeping the sidewalk, minding her own business, when from out of nowhere, she heard voices and could see no one! The Voice said “whatcha doing? Hello! “whatcha doing? Hello!”
The voice continued to talk with my mother and she said “I'm sweeping the sidewalk, what are you doing? Response “Hello! Whatch doing? hello!”. As she got closer to the end of the sidewalk, she realized the voices were coming from the tree in our yard.
She charmed the bird to the sidewalk, by jiggling the safety chain on her watch!
About that time, I came out the front door. I could see my mom -- squatted on the sidewalk -- having a conversation with a bird -- in English!
She gave me that scream-whisper “Get the Colander out of the kitchen cabinet!” We secured the bird under the colander. Mom smiled and said “Now what do we do with him I was planning to make spaghetti tonight for dinner?” And we both gazed down at the bird in the colander! I pictured a “loony toons moment”.
I remembered seeing a bird cage in our neighbor's attic, so I skedaddled over there, burst through their back door screaming “Emergency Emergency! My Mom has a bird cage Emergency!”
So, the bird became a member of our family and mybest friend. I named him Tweedy. But this wasn't your everyday bird, this was a narcissistic bird!
As soon as he got in front of a mirror, he started prattling on, “Pete’s a pretty bird arh, Pete’s a pretty bird!”
He followed me from room to room every day and when our family ate scrambled eggs or fried chicken Pete insisted on joining us at the table! He tried to sneak a bite of eggs and chicken right off of our plates!! Sneaky! And it was the only human food he ever went for! Mom explained cannibalism and we nearly peed ourselves laughing at him thinking he must be seriously deranged!
Our little Pete didn’t like to use his own bird bath, he much preferred to dive-bomb the soap suds in the kitchen as Mom did the dishes. You could hear her “Pete! You’re going to hurt yourself! Get out of there, stop splashing you’re making a mess!” She gave up and occasionally filled the sink with suds (no dishes) just so he could enjoy himself!
Pete was an excellent mimicker, he picked up on the expressions and accents from anyone who spent time at our house. You could truly be fooled into believing that it was the real person speaking!
When I was 6 years old, my father hired a maid to take care of my brother and me and the house while my parents worked. Her name was Irene, she was raised in rural Virginia and had a strong dialect. Pete had no problem imitating her! Irene had a particular way she called my brother Larry and me in from play. A run-together of our names “DONLARE” Pete could do it perfectly and loved to prank my brother and me when HE wanted to play!
After our evening baths, we usually walked through the house naked and my mom would whistle and say “look at Donna, she's naked” or “look Larry’s naked (whistle)” and before long Pete did the same thing and sounded just like Mom! You couldn’t even sneak through the house naked without Pete announcing it!
At bedtime, he liked to sleep on the pillow next to my head and in my hair whenever possible. He was supposed to be in his cage and covered. But we liked it best when he snuggled with me! Pete liked to put himself to bed, in my bed! I had a yellow and white gingham bedspread. He could pull it back off the pillow, then situate himself on my pillow and pulled the covers up to his neck and be there waiting for me when I came in. Made me so happy!
Now, you may think it's a little gross, this relationship, this love I felt with a bird. But it was so perfect --- truly unconditional.
He especially liked hanging out in the dining room because there was a giant mirror above the buffet where he could perch himself and waddle-sideways-stroll along the frame’s edge admiring and conversing with himself.
If there were a lot of people around, Pete liked to get someplace quiet and safe. Under the buffet was a favorite. After a meal the “coffee drinking and conversation” would be held in the dining room and that’s where I learned about things adults didn’t want me to know.