A Tale of Two Monkeys – A Parent’s Cautionary Tale
When my son Marley was born, someone gave him a lovey – a velvety brown monkey – whom we named Farley.
Marley and Farley became inseparable. Farley went where Marley went, picking up all the dirt and stickiness and little boy smells that coated Marley at the end of the day. And while Marley got a bath every night before bed, Farley did not. And Farley developed quite a smell. I’m not going to say it was a really bad smell, but, it was a very strong and distinctive smell. And for Marley, it was the best smell in the whole goddamn world.
He would pick up Farley, press the monkey’s head to his nose and breathe in deeply, and then his expression would relax into bliss. It was like someone taking a long satisfying drag on a cigarette. For Marley, that smell was a drug. And believe me, he was a raging addict!
At night he would fall asleep with Farley spread across the lower half of his face so he could breathe in the scent of his companion. It goes without saying, of course, that without Farley, sleep was a laughable impossibility.
Once every two months or so, when Farley got really unbearably filthy, I’d sneak him away to be washed. And it was as if Marley had some freakish radar for sensing when Farley was suddenly not within arm’s reach. Hysteria would quickly set in, and more often than not, I had to fish a dripping Farley out of the washing machine, wring him out, and hand him over (damp and smelling like laundry detergent) to a very unhappy Marley.
Unhappy because I had – at least temporarily – removed that cherished smell. (Though it never took very long for it to return.)
Now, Marley had a perverse habit of holding Farley by a corner and whipping him around in a circle like a sling shot. And, of course, every so often, he would lose his grip, and Farley would slingshot off.
Centrifugal force sent that monkey flying pretty far sometimes. And even though we usually knew the point of release, it was still stunning the places that monkey ended up. One time (after several PAINFUL hours of searching that almost certainly subtracted about 2.3 years from my life), Farley was finally located inside a light bracket high up on a wall, completely hidden from all of us down on the ground. I don’t know what on earth made me look up there in the end – sheer desperation, probably.
Of course, whenever Farley went missing, (most often a result of being slingshotted somewhere), our lives were thrown into a state of sudden and total chaos and disorder. I tore though the house, frantic thoughts flitting through my brain – what if we couldn’t find him? What then? Marley would never sleep again, which meant that I would never sleep again… what the flying fuck would we do?
Not being a fool to bang my head against the same wall too many times, I came up with an ingenious plan.
I would surgically implant a tracker inside Farley’s head. Then, when we lost him (which seemed to happen pretty much every other day) I had a locator I could click, and if he was within about 20 feet, the tracker would beep. Brilliant. Right?
It was brilliant, and for a period of a few weeks, Farley was quickly located each time he was slingshotted off somewhere. I felt pretty smug about it.
And then (without thinking) I tossed Farley into the washing machine one day. And that was the end of that, as trackers (it turns out) are not waterproof. I performed a second surgery and removed the now dead tracker.
But I was determined that my life was not going to be controlled by this stinky little lovey. So, like Wile E. Coyote, I hatched new plan.
This time, I purchased a second monkey lovey IDENTICAL to the first. Completely and totally identical. Same brand. Same everything.
I would have a BACKUP! Heh-heh-heh.
And when bedtime rolled around, I handed the new lovey (the new IDENTICAL lovey) to Marley. He took it from me and then stopped. He looked at it oddly.
I told him I just washed Farley.
He smelled the monkey… and then, with an expression of pure revulsion on his face, he slowly extended his arm and dropped the imposter over the side of his crib. Total rejection.
What the fu…?
I played dumb.
“What? You don’t want Farley?”
But he was having none of it.
So, somehow, Farley (the real Farley) magically appeared, and Marley grabbed him, buried his face in him, breathed him in like the lovey-addicted fiend he was, and lay down to sleep.
I tried a few more times to pass off the imposter as Farley, but every time, he knew instantly, and the poor imposter lovey would be dropped out of the crib onto the floor. And now, Marley no longer just accepted Farley when I handed him over. He did a smell test every time.
Did I throw in the towel? Hell no.
I decided that New Farley needed a little “curing.” He didn’t smell nearly disgusting enough.
At this time, my daughter was just a few months old, so when I wrapped her up like a caterpillar at bed time, I planted Imposter Farley inside the wrap, where it would absorb all her myriad baby smells.
I even tucked it inside my shirt a few times at night and slept with it myself, hoping it would absorb sweat, breast milk, dead skin cells, and whatever other body secretions might help cure it to acceptable ripeness.
And Imposter Farley did begin to develop a smell – a not altogether good smell – like his cousin, Real Farley. I kept at it till he was nearly as rank as Real Farley. And then I tried again.
I nonchalantly handed Imposter Farley over at bed time. My son inspected him, smelled him, paused… smelled him again – this was further than I’d ever gotten before – smelled him again… and this time, Imposter Farley was not chucked overboard. Marley kept him. Imposter Farley had been accepted! Yes!!! I glowed with satisfaction.
I had done it! Hallellujah.
And then… Marley held out his hand for Real Farley.
I played dumb – again.
“What do you mean? I gave you Farley.”
You’d think I had handed him a purple polka-dotted ostrich and asked him to believe it was Farley, not another soft brown monkey IDENTICAL to the one he had.
He was having none of it. His look clearly said, “Give me my monkey NOW, lady!”
And after a fairly extended stare-down, I went to retrieve Real Farley, and sheepishly handed him over. Real Farley was happily received, and now sleep could commence.
I slowly exited the room. Of all the possible outcomes, this one I had not expected. I felt bamboozled.
And no, I didn’t have any more slick ideas up my sleeve. Come bedtime that night, I didn’t even try. I admitted my defeat. I passed Real Farley to my son, and Real Farley was embraced, huffed deeply, and slung over Marley’s shoulder.
And then he held out his hand for New Farley.
And yeah, his look demanded, “Give me my other monkey too, lady.”
And so I did.
And I realized with dawning horror that I had just doubled my problem.
Because now, he needed TWO monkeys to go to sleep.
Once New Farley was an embedded member of the family, we concluded that he needed his own name – and so we called him Charlie.
To top it off, little sister, must be just like big brother.