by Carol Heilman
No, this is not the name of a new band or even a new song, though it could be.
My mother grew up in a small Kentucky town. She often told us about walking to school when she was a child. We have told our own children such stories about walking for miles to school in the deep snow, uphill both ways. No wonder they rolled their eyes.
Mother swore the following tale was true. According to her, she had to pass a next-door neighbor who kept monkeys in his trees. How he kept them there she didn’t know, but she was petrified that one, or more than one, would swing out over the high fence and jump onto her back.
Every morning her mother would warn her, “Stay away from those monkeys.” Mother did her best, sprinting down the sidewalk, clutching her books to her chest, not slowing down until she felt certain she was safe from ‘those screeching animals.’
We laughed at her story. Mother said to call her older sister, Aunt Eula. “She’ll vouch for me. Eula remembers everything.” We called. She did not remember.
“How could you forget those awful monkeys?” Mother yelled into the phone.
After that encounter we teased mother about seeing monkeys in the trees. After awhile, she stopped being mad and laughed along with us. We started giving her things with monkeys on them. Daddy even gave her a huge, stuffed monkey that made terrible sounds and then came the little ones that sounded even worse when we threw them again a wall.
Next came the cloth tote bag displaying the image of a monkey dressed as a little girl. Created by an artist friend, Betsy Thorne, Mother loved it. She proudly carried it to doctor appointments, to the beauty shop, and down to dinner in her assisted-living home.
The monkey bag became part of my inheritance. I’ve used it to carry books or writing materials, but I haven’t yet carried it to dinner. Maybe I should.
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