True to form, I didn’t make it all the way through Christmas day without having one of my presents taken away from me. You’d think that I would have learned better when I was, oh...say...12 or something, but, nope.
I got great presents this year from family and friends, and I don’t mean to disparage any of their generosity, however, in my family, the coolest and most fun gifts usually come in our stockings. MY family doesn’t give the usual oranges, walnuts, and the $5 fast food certificates in our stockings. We get office supplies, bookmarks, plastic animals, and unknown things that are squishy and beep, hiss, warble, and grunt.
For example, a couple years ago, my mom got a little plastic zebra in her stocking. She had been to Noah’s Ark and fell in love with Evidence to the point where she really wanted a zebra to pat and talk to for her very own. Well, since I’m sure the City of McDonough has some type of zoning ordinance against exotic, wild game being kept in senior adult communities, Santa got her a small plastic zebra for her stocking that year. You’d think it was the real thing. It still stands on the table by her chair and she tells it “good morning” and “good night.” That same year, and every year since, my brother wanted either a monkey or a gun. Knowing the propensity he has for not knowing boundaries, Santa wisely chose a plastic monkey for his stocking. And, there it still sits on the table by his chair...sometimes wandering over to visit the zebra. Really. This is my family.
One more tidbit of background will tell why my family has some type of weird fixation on wildlife, and especially monkeys. I grew up in the area of Grant Park in East Atlanta. It was a very Cleaver-ish neighborhood back in the 1950’s where we kids played outside more than inside, and enjoyed the inexpensive games like Rock School, Swing Statue, and Freeze Tag. However, one nice sunny day, our play was interrupted by a disturbance in the trees above. We looked up and (even more exciting than some alien spaceship), we saw a monkey jumping around in our tree. A real live monkey, escaped from the zoo, was in our backyard! Unfortunately, the zoo people came and took our monkey away, but we’ve all had a desire for another monkey ever since.
So, this year, what to my delight did I find on Christmas morning when I reached into my stocking? A monkey with a cape. How cool is that? You could put two fingers into little sleeves on his front paws, pull back on his tail and back legs, let go, and whoosh! Monkey would sail across the room, howling monkey sounds as it crashed into a wall, the floor, or anyone in the way. My mind began to whir with the possibilities of my flying monkey. The only mistake I made was sharing these possibilities.
“Hey, wouldn’t it be cool to let the monkey fly down from the balcony during church next Sunday?” “I wonder if I could sail it from the Courthouse toward the Square and see how many people scream and run?” Then, my biggest mistake.
It had just begun to snow and my mom went out on the back deck to look and take some pictures. Unfortunately for all concerned, it was after dark, and our backyard is all woods. Monkey decided to take a flight out of the kitchen door and crash into the brick pillar right by mom’s head and let loose with that howler monkey sound.
About the same time, my mom let loose with her imitation of a howler monkey,ß∑ which quickly turned to the angry mother sound as she scooped up my flying monkey and headed back into the house. Somehow, it seemed a whole lot funnier before it happened. Nor was it funny when she sailed monkey back out the door later in the night and I almost jumped off the deck.
Gosh, I love my flying howler monkey, but most of all I love my mom for giving it to me and for understanding that sometimes her eldest son just has to play with his toys at her expense. For an 80-something-year-old lady, she sure can hop high, though!
Jimmy Cochran is a resident of McDonough, Co-editor of the Times, author, musician, Minister, and all-around cool guy.
(Published originally in The Henry County Times newspaper, McDonough, GA)