Clearly, I have recently learned how to make art with Pendennis’s head.
Clearly, I have recently learned how to make art with Pendennis’s head.
I am a grown woman and I have a stuffed animal. Like, right over there. On the couch.
I do not chew on this object. It does not come with me on business trips. I don’t rub it on my cheek to soothe me when I’m scared or advised to seek the help of an oncologist to figure out my severe hemogoblin problem. This stuffed animal is not exactly a security blanket; besides, he’s too small to properly cover a grown woman. He couldn’t possibly be a security blanket. It’s ridiculous.
Many years ago, when I was in high school — late 1990s — I was the teacher’s aide for Mrs. Silber, one of the coolest, prettiest, raddest teachers I ever had. She was brassy and blonde and sorta husky, but that description makes her sound like a waitress in Reno. No, Mrs. Silber was classy. She was an art teacher, so that says a lot. Just tops, that lady. I actually babysat her kids once but I was a terrible babysitter because children scared me to death. I let them do anything. Marshmallows, TV — anything.
I had discovered the joy of sock monkeys somewhere during this time. Knowing this and loving me, at the end of that senior year, Mrs. Silber made me my very own sock monkey. Thirty kids drew me cards of sock monkeys to go with it. I was headed to college; I needed cards. Of course, I was overjoyed with the gifts. It was love at first squeeze.
Now, there was, you will remember, a sock monkey zeitgeist that has recently, blessedly passed. My love for my sock monkey was something I felt I had to hide while the culture experienced a sock monkey craze. Sheets, fabric, keychains, pajamas, mugs — for awhile, everywhere you looked (in Target especially) there were monkeys. But I was stalwart. I kept my dignity. I knew my love was strong, original, and unwavering, that the fickle public would move on soon enough. I was not wrong: Frozen came and Legos came again and I no longer felt like a joiner. I refuse to join!
Regarding the monkey’s name: Pendennis is the protagonist in William Makepeace Thackeray’s The History of Pendennis, written in 1904. If my life depended on it, I could not tell you why I named my monkey Pendennis because a public high school education in Iowa is great, but ain’t nobody reading Thackeray. I feel like my friend Leia and I came across the name, somehow, and it was just too memorable, funny, and odd to pass up. However he was named, the monkey was named Pendennis and so he has remained.
Pendennis is on the set of every Quilty episode ever taped. He is the mascot and masthead of this blog. He has been with me through many periods of convalescence.The gestures he effortlessly creates; the way his body flop-mopseys around; that eternal gaze… I either laugh out loud or shake my head when I see him or see just the tip of his hat poking out from the covers. Pendennis is a metaphor, a symbol, a monkey-ersonification of what I see is the baffling, beautiful experience of living. Yeah, I know. All that from a monkey.
I’ve written of my wee friend before. I will again, too, because there are friends and then their are friends — and then there is Pendennis.
I got the mail today and what was inside but a small, padded manila envelope from one Margaret Maloney. Margaret lives in Brooklyn and we had a blind date set up to go to a quilt guild meeting together this summer. I was unwell when the day came, however, and had only recently arrived home from an out-of-town trip. I was too pooped to pucker and bummed out not to meet Margaret.
Not long ago, she asked me for my mailing address, which of course I gave to her. Here is what she wrote on the card that came with the item you see above:
I hope that this Pocket Pendennis can be a help to you at times when a full-size sock monkey might be impractical. I think it is lucky — I worked on it on the train to and from a successful interview for admission into medical school. I’m sorry this city hasn’t been good to you — it doesn’t know what its missing! I hope our paths will cross another time.
I’m pretty speechless, Margaret. Thank you. Congratulations on getting into medical school and way to go being extremely articulate and possessing of stunning penmanship, but mostly thank you for hand-appliqueing my sweet little monkey on a quilted square. You cannot know how much better you made my day. It was rainy, I was sad, and my tummy is extremely mad at me these days.
He’s so in pocket. Now go study!
When life springs eternally from a suitcase, I turn to the monkey.
I’m not quite eccentric enough to pack him along with me on the road, but I do have a folder of pictures of him on my computer and sometimes, we flip.
Travel means nothing to this monkey. I leave Des Moines for Lincoln, Nebraska tomorrow, and Pendennis, he don’t care where we go or that we’re not going home. Or that we’ll be home just two days before going to Florida for four.
Pendennis pays no taxi fare, cares not for TSA pre-check. Pendennis doesn’t need to take a jacket. Pendennis can’t miss his favorite teacup or wish he packed his softest nightgown.
Pendennis only has that face, that face that remains unchanged by death, taxes, and airport security. Indeed, the stuffed monkey remains unchanged also by happiness; in my most ecstatic moments, Pendennis is Pendennis is Pendennis.
And he’s so funny.
Everything is going to be fine.
Remember: Pendennis is never posed, ever. These are candid shots of my monkey found as he was — and ever is. Check the “Pendennis Observer” category here in the archives for more.
I have a sock monkey.
Lots of adult people “have” sock monkeys, but their monkeys are mostly in tupperware bins with the rest of the stuffed animals and toys they chose to kept from childhood. Those monkeys are not in rotation. Mine is.
My monkey’s name is Pendennis. It’s true that Pendennis is a novel written in the mid-19th century by William Makepeace Thackeray, but that book has no bearing whatsoever on why my monkey’s name is Pendennis. I haven’t the faintest idea why I named the lil’ sh-t Pendennis but when I received him as a gift in high school (?) that’s just what I did.
I take pictures of Pendennis all the time. All the time! Almost every day. He is a veritable font of joy and he does nothing but lie there — he’s incredible. His goofy little body is so funny and is weighted just so with stuffing that whether he’s been tossed to the ground when I’m making the bed, or maybe he’s tangled up in the covers, or he’s been whipped into a chair for some reason, his gesture is priceless. Every time. And it’s crucial to understand that I do not pose him. The pictures I take of him are never styled. I just choose my angle and shoot. Look:
I’ve registered a domain name: PendennisObserver.com. One day, when I’m not so busy, I want to put a simple site up and post at least one picture each week of my monkey. Surely someone else in the world thinks he’s as funny as I do. The website would have a tag line, too, something like: “Never posed, never duplicated. The Pendennis Observer. Vir sapit qui pauca loquitur.”
That Latin part? Translation: “That man is wise who talks little.”