Polly, the Prima Donna


In the late 1950s we inherited Polly the parrot from our Chesnut/Storey forebearers, thrived on attention and didn’t care whether it was amused, irate, admiring or hostile – just like Grandma Marrs. Polly craved an audience ALL the time and her ultimate punishment was to see that cloth cover coming down over her cage. Left alone? Oh no! From her covered perch, she’d moan “Boo hoo hoo. Poor Polly, poor poor Polly. Ooo Hoo hoo!” Cheez. It could break your heart. Totally convincing.

Polly was a Party Animal. She would run through her whole bag of tricks, hanging upside down with wings spread and laughing like Vincent Price, singing away. Sometimes she’d add a rhythmic head-ducking movement to her trilling. Why she seemed to follow a Bossa Nova beat was never clear, but we did play the radio a lot . . . Guests – warned to stay clear of possible chomping – were delighted and would hang out in the kitchen, laughing at her antics. My own friends would come to check in with her first when visiting.

Polly’s soprano was truly seductive and enchanting. She performed a full volume operatic rendition – complete with spread wings – of the Doxology: “PUHHRaise Goddd frommmm whomm all blessingssss flowww! Tra lah lah lah lah!.” Her dead ringer imitation of Auntie calling her dogs to supper had resulted in the miscalled dogs bewilderedly woofing around the screen porch while Polly cackled with glee. A real prankster.

Watching Polly perform, eye glittering madly, I felt real admiration for the bird. Deep in the midst of preteen angst, I was hot on the trail of Deep Meanings. Here was a creature stuck for decades in a cage, but determined to live the gay life – be at the center of whatever she could. A real inspiration. I was very impressed. Until my next turn to clean her cage . . .

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