Friday, March 27, 2015

A Monkey for Maria

I didn't have a picture of a monkey - but there are
crocuses blooming in Philly, and that's almost as good.
This post is inspired by a blog post written by my friend, Maria Wulf, a few days ago.  She's going to be getting a horse soon, and talked in her post about the relationship that girls/women have had with horses.  She wanted a horse as a child, but so did many of us, and it's not really a practical - or possible - gift for most parents.

This quote reminded me of something from my own childhood:

"I wanted a monkey too when I saw it in a pet store and believed my mother would let me have it if I could only convince her how much I really wanted it."

I had a monkey as a pet when I was about 7 years old, only my mom was the one who really wanted it.

I've talked about my mom before. She was . . . unusual. She had certain ideas that she couldn't be talked out of, and weird enthusiasms that had no basis in any reality the rest of us could see.

When she was a little girl, in the 1930s, my great-grandmother used to tell her not to stay out after dark because the Gypsies would steal her. Most children would have been cowed. My mother? She packed up the classic bandanna-on-a-stick parcel and fell asleep on the curb, waiting for them to come for her.

She grew up (mostly), but she never lost her fascination with them. There were a couple of Gypsy kids in my grade school. Their families would come and go each year, generally leaving in June when school let out. One year, Mom happened to be nearby when they were packing their cars. (Was it deliberate? Even as a 40-something, did she want them to take her away?)

They got to talking, and somehow, my mom came home with a monkey.

I came home to find a tall metal cage on the kitchen table, with said monkey inside. His name, of course, was Gypsy. He was small and skinny and made a lot of noise, and had very bad manners. My poor aunt Margaret, who lived with us, didn't understand what he was doing until my mom explained to her that monkeys were a lot like small boys who'd just found out that they were carrying the best toy in the world around on their bodies.

He also threw food. And poop.  And anything else he could find. (Can't say I blame him; it wasn't a huge cage and he was probably bored silly and wondered who this crazy blonde woman was who kept cooing at him).

And then my dad got home from work.

My dad was a patient man. He had to be, with my mom. She got away with everything short of murder, but the monkey crossed a line. As a fireman, my dad had almost no sense of smell, but he could smell monkey, and it wasn't good. The fact that Gypsy was on the kitchen table meant that he took his dinner in the living room that night and fell asleep in the recliner.

Gypsy moved to the back porch, Mom called the local pet store, and she and my aunt spent the night scrubbing and airing out the kitchen. Gypsy moved on to the pet store the following day, chattering and flinging poop all the way, and peace was restored.

Years later, Mom said she was sorry she hadn't had time to take a picture with him, but she wanted to dye her hair black and find a good pair of hoop earrings, and just didn't have time before he left for the pet store.

I can only imagine the legend that would have grown up around that photograph.  


patsijean said...

I love your story about your Mom and the monkey.

Jacqui said...

I would love a book containing these stories!

annie said...

Gypsies and stolen children are a very important element in Irish lore, even today. What a charming story.