LET'S HEAR IT FOR THE LITTLE GUY
Early Wednesday morning, a member of our family passed away.
He was a little guy who lived in our house for over 11 years. An acclaimed child prodigy, he named himself, “Baby Peter” at just three months old. Then, started reciting, “I’m Baby Peter, Pumpkin Eater.” At only 2 years of age, he had a vocabulary of over 200 words. He could even recite Shakespeare (“To be or not to be. That is the question”). At age 3, he was entertaining guests with somersaults and taking treat requests (“Do you want a cookie?” “Would you like some water?”). He had a set of feathers on him that knocked you out every time he flew into the room.
Feathers? Flew? I guess by now you know I’m not talking about the little guy interviewing big guy Rock Hudson in the above picture. This little guy was a Parakeet. But, to us, he was a little person in a feather suit.
My love for parakeets began in 1952 while doing a show called “Leave It To Lloyd” on WSPD-TV in Toledo, Ohio. The show featured Lola Smith at the organ, Barbara Krall, who sang, myself, and starred the talking Parakeet, Sanford. Sanford was named after the pet store “Sanfords,” that donated him to the show (this was typical local 50s TV folks). We also had big guy guests like Rock Hudson, but it was Sanford who always stole the show and gathered the ratings. When the show went off the air (as all shows eventually do), Sanford moved into my parent's house for the rest of a very good life.
The scene changes to Hollywood.
My wife, Barbara, and I first saw Baby Peter at The Farmer’s Market Pet Store just days after he was born. When we entered the store he was being hand fed by Todd, the loving owner himself, and we had to wait a couple of weeks before he was old enough to bring home. From that moment on, he literally personified the phrase, “What a handful.”
Then one day, just a little over four weeks out of his nest, he looked up at Barbara and myself and said, ever so softly, “Baby bird.” We rushed to the phone to call Todd at Farmer’s Market to report this unbelievable feat (“He’s talking. He’s talking”), but were told that this was impossible; the bird was too young to talk. All the time I was trying to convince Todd it was true, Baby Peter was on my shoulder shouting into the phone, “BABY BIRD … BABY BIRD.”
And that was just the beginning. For the next 11 years he sang “Jingle Bells,” “Santa Clause is Coming to Town,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You,” and hundreds of other songs and expressions. He called out for “Cheese Please,” at the dinner hour, and said “I want to go to sleepy” when it was time for bedtime. Once covered, he then recited, “Good night, sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.” We called him The Prince of Parakeeters.
We loved him so much and truly expected him to stay around forever. But, 11 is a lot of years for a Parakeet and a couple of weeks ago he began to fail. He stopped talking and spent a lot of time just sitting flat on our shoulders, snuggled up tight against our cheeks.
On Tuesday, Baby Peter started to lose the ability to stand on his own feet and Barbara and I took turns holding him in our hands for most of the day and night. At two thirty Early Wednesday morning, he lifted his head, let out a sigh, and died quietly in Barbara’s hand. We buried our little Prince under the Japanese Maple tree.
Anyone who has ever lost a beloved family member can surely understand our grief. The house feels eerily lonesome and quiet. We miss Baby Peter even more than we could have imagined. We were so thankful we were able to be with him when he left us. He was never alone.
Good night sweet Prince of Parakeeters; and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.