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.