Monkey is Charlotte's stuffed friend, who really helped her overcome shyness. A young boy was playing one of those crane toy games in a restaurant years ago, while we waited for a table. He won so many of the cheap, plush pets, that he sweetly handed one to each of the girls. They were thrilled. Charlotte was actually over the moon. The instant she was handed the small, pink monkey, it began.
It, would mean the stories. The wild, tales of monkey and her, going all over the world every night. At first, it was adorable. She would awaken in the morning, and without skipping a beat, she would yammer on and on, through making her bed, eating her breakfast, even brushing her teeth, about these exotic locations she and monkey had been to, the night before. David and I would crack up at the detail of every story. She went on and on. Literally.
After a few months, it ceased being so adorable, and I started growing tired of monkey tales. I wanted to talk to Charlotte. I didn't want to hear about this imaginary world. I wanted facts, not fiction. But she was relentless. She made me decorate the house, and she sent us all invitations, scrawled on little pieces of paper, for monkeys birthday party. Or shall I say, parties. It seemed like we were gathering around an imaginary cake a few times a week. Some days, depending if I had some white wine in me, I thought it was fun. Most days, it became annoying. If we didn't sing monkey happy birthday, Charlotte would freak.
Yet, Charlotte, through all of this, evolved. She was always the kid who hid behind my knee. She didn't play with the kids at the playground. She would sit with the mom's. She was a preschool dropout. She stressed so much about being away from me, and playing with other kids, she would wake me up in the middle of the night, in tears, begging me not to go. It broke my heart.
The final straw was when I went to pick her up from school one day. There she sat, on the lap of the teacher, with a folded hat made out of newspaper, sitting high on her head, and the saddest face I had ever seen. She was going through the motions. The teacher told me she kept asking after every project they did was it time for mommy to come yet. I didn't have the heart to force her to continue on.
I worried about our decision for the rest of the year. Especially when she seemed so shy, and dependant on me. Taking school out of the equation I feared would isolate her more. But the summer she turned four was when monkey came. And she changed. She started preschool, yet again, and after a few bumps in the beginning, and some tears, she loved it. Monkey and his tales were part of our daily life that whole year. But for whatever reason, it got her through. It got us all through.
David was tucking Charlotte into bed last night. I had already kissed her goodnight. I heard him say to her, as I left the room, "Monkey doesn't really go anywhere anymore, does he?" Charlotte simply said, "Nah."
"Nah". That's it? Really? I hadn't realized that monkeys adventures had become so few and far between, that they were no more. I hadn't realized that Charlotte didn't need him anymore. I guess the transition was so subtle, it went un-noticed.
Like hang-ger-ber. That's what the girls both called hamburgers. When did it change? I didn't hear it. Or nesklets. That was Olivia's word for necklace. Or the pile of crinoline in the corner of Charlotte's room. Snow White costumes, and Cinderella. There, they sit. Unworn.
It ends. It changes. The change is slow, but the part that makes me sad, is that when I finally do notice, I can't believe that I didn't notice sooner. Have I been asleep on the job? Worrying about worry? Stressed about stress?
All those mornings of me, clenching my teeth, with my back to Charlotte, pouring my coffee, just screaming inside my head, barely able to stand yet another monkey adventure.
And poof. It's over.