When my daughter Rachel was a year old, she received a stuffed animal as a Christmas present – one of those long-legged monkeys with Velcro on the hands and feet. She had plenty of other stuffed animals, but for whatever reason she latched onto that monkey from the moment she got it.
“Monkey” became her constant companion. When we went to the doctor to get shots, it was Monkey she clung to for comfort. She dragged him everywhere – literally and figuratively. As you might imagine, Monkey got a tad gamey after awhile. I was afraid to wash him for fear he would lose his fluffiness, but after she got sick, I really didn’t have a choice. The thing was a furry petri dish of potential infection.
After the initial washing, Monkey made a trip to the washing machine on a weekly basis. My daughter was unfazed. It seemed the more matted his coat became, the more she loved him. Linus had his blue blanket. My daughter had Monkey.
Until that horrible January day a few years ago. Rachel was 3 years old. We were up at the church building putting away Christmas decorations and costumes from a Christmas program. After a few hours up at the church with nothing much to keep her entertained, Rachel became cranky and was in need of a nap. I excused myself from the rest of the work crew, drove home and prepared to put her down for a nap.
Exhausted, she lay down and through heavy lids said the word that caused a sinking feeling in my stomach:
I tried to mentally backtrack all the place we had been in the church building. Several boxes had been packed away and stored in the attic. I immediately called the church office. Everyone there was quite aware of Rachel’s attachment to Monkey. No one had seen him.
Back up to church. Several searches through countless boxes in the attic and in every room and storage closet in the building and still no sign of Monkey.
I promised my daughter that I would look again the following day. She didn’t want to go to sleep without him, but she was somewhat comforted by the hope that he would be back the following day.
When the second search produced the same results as the first, I began to panic. I’m ashamed to say that I went so far as to buy a new monkey at Rainforst Cafe in the hopes of passing it off as the original. In an attempt to age the monkey in record time, I covered it in Vaseline, rolled it in the dirt and washed it. I repeated this process four times. (Pathetic much? Yes. Yes I am.) When presented with the monkey, as I expected Rachel said, “That’s not my monkey. It’s too fluffy.”
I hung my head and accepted defeat. I told her Monkey was gone and he most likely would not be found. She cried. I cried. We mourned the passing of Monkey. The first night without him was a long one.
But guess what? The day she lost that monkey was the day she stopped sucking her fingers and the day she began to realize that she could comfort herself.
And I realized the things we sometimes desperately cling to for comfort and security only represent the strength that was within us all along.
So how about it? Are you ready to lose your monkey?