T'was the night before Christmas, when all through the cozy, northern Ohio village, not a creature was stirring — except Percy. His birdbrain was abuzz. He couldn’t settle down for a long winter’s nap. Not with the jolly old elf coming and all. Too much excitement for the dapper peacock to dream about dancing sugarplums.
With Christmas closing in on the calendar, the story of Percy the Peacock, and how he came to be such a celebrated bird about town, begs to be told. So, on a typical Ohio December night, as the children were nestled all snug on their couches — starring down at their phones — Mama decided to regale them with a bedtime tale about a special peacock that was true.
The children immediately ditched their phones and eagerly leaned in to hear more. Not true.
But Mama persisted, nevertheless. Percy, she began, was a stunningly magnificent bird with a healthy dose of wanderlust. He traveled wherever curiosity took him. Rumor had it he decided to wander away from an old peacock farm that no longer met his needs.
The restless bird walked and flew until he eventually stumbled upon a small community that — after getting over the shock of seeing the feathered spectacle with a six-foot tail strutting around the neighborhood — embraced him as one of its own. The peacock was dubbed Percival, but Percy was the nickname that stuck.
Before long, word spread far and wide about the exotic-looking phenomenon who seemed surprisingly comfortable around astonished humans. That was a good thing for Percy because his adopted village happened to be in a highly trafficked tourist region of the state with loads of attractions from roller-coasters to rich history.
The peacock who popped into Thomas Edison’s hometown and decided to stay piqued considerable interest with outsiders. Visitors coming to the museums along North Edison Drive in Milan started querying tour guides about Percy. Soon, a “peacock crossing” sign appeared outside the Edison Birthplace Museum, which also sold peacock earrings in its gift shop and filled a food dish for the bird outside.
Down the road, another museum featured a unique holiday decoration of a peacock shining gloriously in sparkling blue/green lights. Tourists would often linger before leaving in hopes of spotting the reticent local celebrity. They drove or walked around the village looking. They craned their necks to spy him in trees where he was wont to roost. Were those his feathers hanging down?
The celebrated peacock did not disappoint. He would suddenly appear out of nowhere to oblige assembled gawkers with a sight seldom seen up close. But what Percy did was more than put on a flamboyant show with his stunning plume of vibrant, fluorescent hues. He opened people’s eyes to wonder — which was no small feat, Mama added, adjusting her kerchief.
Sometimes, she explained, people forget what it feels like to marvel at something, to be absolutely flabbergasted by, say, a striking natural beauty like Percy, brimming with exquisite colors of metallic blue and green. Children, of course, live for such gleeful wonderment. They are easily awestruck and blown away. Adults, not so much.
Percy knew how to wow the staid and serious adults he encountered. Mama said he was wise that way. Somehow, he sensed that humans of all ages needed periodic moments to experience full-on childlike amazement over the wildly unexpected and uplifting.
Life can be a weighty proposition — especially for grownups who tend to equate fanciful with frivolous and enchantment with childhood. As the years grind on, they can hardly summon shock and awe about anything. Then came Percy.
Shocked adults couldn’t take their eyes off him. When he twirled his iridescent blue body in front of them and fanned out his jaw-dropping, shimmering plumage inches from their startled faces, the regal dancer with feathered crown gave folks their astonishment back. He gave them permission to be dazzled and dumbfounded again.
He didn’t ask who they were or what they did. Percy the Peacock couldn’t care less if the people he ran across were Republican, Democrat, Christian, Muslim, Jew, or where they lived, who they loved, or how much stuff they had. He simply showed up to dispense indiscriminate, mind-blowing wonder.
That was his gift, and he’s still giving it freely to all who cross his path. On the night before Christmas, he stirs under brilliant stars and sleeps. Tomorrow, Mama whispers to her drowsy brood, Percy the Peacock will resume greeting the awestruck with his breathtaking resplendence and maybe open a few eyes to the possibilities of everyday miracles that strut up close and personal.
Johanek is a veteran print and broadcast journalist.