Drunk on truth to stupid baby power.

The Purpose of a Giraffe


by Robert Mitchell, Jr.

Giraffes don’t run wild in my country.  I’ve only seen them in the flesh a few times, at the zoo.  They have very long, dexterous tongues that are black, slimy and sticky.  As zoo animals go, they’re right up there with goats when it comes to being fun to feed.

Television nature shows tell you most everything you need to know about giraffes I reckon.  You learn about how they eat and digest the thorniest trees and bushes, how their bodies are able to maintain the flow of oxygenated blood up through the longest neck in the animal kingdom, and so on.  You get to see them slamming each other with their heads as they compete for mates, followed by the actual coupling.  I figure, once you observe a creature’s mating rituals you’ve seen it all.  You know all you need to know.

The popular protagonist of many a children’s book, the giraffe has a small but loyal cult following among the pre-to-elementary school demographic.  Being a father of four, I have read all of the classics, including of course Silverstein’s fantastic A Giraffe and a Half.

So, having seen giraffes in the flesh, watched the nature shows, and read all of the relevant print material on these fascinating creatures, one would think I’d be able to readily and capably answer a child’s simple question about giraffes.  In addition to all of the aforementioned research, I am a father, and this gives me the magical ability to answer all questions quickly and accurately.  I am the Great Parental Oracle.

My daughter Morgan, who had a stuffed animal in the form of a giraffe and was at that time a member of the pre-to-elementary school giraffe fan-base, looked up at me and asked, “What are giraffes for?”

“What do you mean what are they for?” I thought.  “They’re animals, not can openers!”  I didn’t say that, I just thought it.  Statements like that hurt children’s feelings.  Sometimes they cry, or even worse, they stop asking silly questions.  And as we all should know, the sillier the question the more we can learn from the answer.  Or by the act of trying to answer.

“The purpose of a giraffe,” I proclaimed, totally off-the-cuff, my vast store of giraffe knowledge of no help whatsoever, “is to be the giraffiest giraffe she can be.”

“How does she do that?” Morgan asked.

“Well,” I improvised, “she should eat the highest, most tender leaves.  She should see as far as she can, run as fast as she can, enjoy the sunshine as much as she can, and live as long as she can.  She should raise the strongest, happiest, healthiest babies she can, love as hard as she can, and be the best friend she can possibly be to all the other giraffes and animals.”

“So giraffes are for the same thing people are for?” Morgan said.

Enlightened, proud, and moved, I blinked several times.

“Yes,” I said.  “That’s absolutely right.”

Robert Mitchell, Jr. is a writer, artist and mystic from Richmond, VA.


5 Responses to “The Purpose of a Giraffe”

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