I see a howler monkey in Costa Rica and I remember how I wanted one so, so badly when I was twelve. My sister Annie and her new husband Al were living in Panama City then, and she had come home for a visit, and told us that kids in Panama had monkeys as pets. My dad sometimes called me Little Monkey.
So Annie and my mom and I sat on the white plastic lawn chairs facing the green grass sloping down to the house; the same green grass that we rolled down, the same green grass that when snow-covered was sled on, the same green grass that less than three years ago we had my father’s funeral on. At my father’s funeral John read a piece that Annie had dictated to her children and they had emailed to us. Annie had dictated it with great effort and much encouragement, and it was incredible because she was also dying. She did die, the very next day after my father’s funeral on that green grassy slope. Then the house was sold and demolished and replaced by two brand new ones, and my mom died a year ago tomorrow.
But that monkey, that howler monkey here in Costa Rica is sitting on this branch, lounging really, and Annie and my mom and I were lounging on those white plastic lawn chairs, and I said “Please Mom Please” and my mom said “Monkeys are very messy…” and I said “Pleeease” and my mom said “I don’t know, Jeannie…” and Annie said “All the kids have them, I’m sure I could send one up,” which was so like Annie. I thought about how fun it would be to have a monkey as my true companion and best friend, and how it would sit on my shoulder and I would dress it and I would feed it like a baby and all the kids would hear about it and I would be the grooviest kid in seventh grade. My mom said “Well, I’ll have to talk with your father about it…” which of course left me hoping, even though I knew it meant No.
So now I ask Juan Carlos if kids have monkeys as pets and he says that’s illegal. I wonder if that is so in Panama, the country just south of here, or if there was a time in the seventies when monkeys were legal for pets. Or was that just an Annie-ism, for with Annie, anything was possible and you could have anything you wanted if you wanted it enough.
If I had a monkey I would have named it Junko after my mom’s childhood stuffed monkey that answered Yes and No questions. One hand operated his tail which made his head move up and down and back and forth. Some of the fabric was worn away around his bottom and he was also missing an eye. How we loved that monkey. We played with it for hours and asked it many silly questions and some serious ones. I know my mom loved it too. I must pull him out of one of those boxes in my office when we return home.