Thursday, July 02, 2015
the monkey on my back
He is not much to look at. At least, these days.
This little woven monkey (most likely purchased at a Dollar Shop) has followed me all around the world. During that time, I have thrown away a lot of the encumbrances that were in the way of my next move. But The Monkey has survived.
I still remember when he entered my life. It was a farewell party from Castle Air Force Base in August 1973. I had just received orders for my new assignment in Greece. My former commander's wife, Joan Shinnick, brought a bag of gag gifts.
Joan was one of those personalities that come into our lives and forever change how we look at the world. She was an incredible writer. Witty. Precise. With a jeweler's eye for cant. I think I once called her a cross between Mame Dennis and Erma Bombeck.
I can still hear her describing each trinket as she pulled it out of her gift bag -- turning each into a small morality play. And then came The Monkey.
He has no other name. For some reason, slapping a moniker on him seemed restrictive. As if the good charm he brought to my life would somehow be dissipated with something as common as a name.
My assignment in Greece was what the Air Force called "remote." That meant I would be giving up the luxuries I would regularly find on an American base. Like fresh milk. And remote it was.
Joan, being an Air Force wife, understood what the term meant. She gave me The Monkey with instructions that I was to hang it in my bachelor officers quarters. And, whenever I encountered days that seemed unbearable, and I would encounter many (she predicted), I was to look at The Monkey and laugh.
It worked. Numerous times. No matter where The Monkey lived. In Greece. In England. In law school.
When I moved down here, I found him in the bottom of a box. I am almost positive I intended to toss him out when I left Salem. But there he was. Just like Chuckie.
He has now lived in three different houses in Mexico. I had not yet found a good spot for him in the new house -- the house that shares the same aversion to an appellation. Instead, I tossed him on one of the shelves in my bedroom.
When I returned from lunch yesterday, I noticed that Dora, the woman who assists me in keeping my house in order, had found an appropriate perch for him. Hanging on the wall just over my computer desk.
Joan and I shared regular letters. Not just during holidays. But she would always send an amazing Christmas decoration made of paper.
Just after I moved down her, our correspondence stopped. I called her for her birthday two years ago. The voice was hers. But I could tell she had no idea who I was.
I seldom have to look at The Monkey for joy these days. And you know why if you read these pages. My life here is filled with joy. When I glance up at him now, I can share the memory of Joan with him.
And isn't that what a good friendship is all about?