Once upon a time, Smartypants and I went shopping to buy a thermometer. She must have been about 18 months old then, still teething, and always eager to lick and taste every substance on this earth, whether natural, artificial, or some strange combination of the two invented in a specially designed laboratory where slave children spent hours in cold, damp basements tasting materials to ensure they had no appealing flavor. (It was, in fact, at this very same store where, once upon an earlier time, we purchased a Curious George doll because she had spent the entire fifteen minutes of shopping sucking on George's head. I couldn't very well put him back on the shelf).
Anyway, the thermometer we settled on was electronic. One of those ear thingamadoodles. It had no distinguishing features. The one beside it actually had a niftier LCD, but that wasn't a priority for Smartypants. No, she demanded the thermometer that came with a monkey. Not a live monkey, mind you, but a plush brown stuffed monkey who, she claimed, waived to her from inside the clear plastic box. So that's the one we bought. Go in for a thermometer, come out with a monkey...
When we arrived home, the monkey asked for a name. Being the creative genius I am, I said, "Why don't we name him Monkey?" (Note: there is a history to me naming pets after the type of animal they are. When my wife and I first got our kittens, I wanted to name one of the cats Puppy, because I found it ironic. Well, my wife found me moronic, and proceeded to use a different name. I've been rather dejected ever since, and this is my payback. I certainly don't condone using children and their toys as a means of playful retribution against one's significant other, but I do it nevertheless).
So the monkey became Monkey, and Smartypants found a lifelong companion (at first, Curious George hung around with them, but he was soon forgotten). They drank tea together. They went shopping together. They played and ate and slept and made mischief together. Monkey wasn't allowed to take baths with Smartypants, but he did get to play in the washing machine a few times.
Anyway, Monkey was later joined by a bright orange Halloween cat named Scared-e (sadly, this cat came with a name, so I couldn't use Puppy). And shortly after that came Ula, a baby doll. (Ula was the first stuffed thing Smartypants named herself. I once called her Ula ula u la la, and I was promptly informed that was her nickname).
The four of them were inseparable. As Smartypants aged, she became the mommy and they became her babies. They ALL travelled with us in the car, wherever we went, even on quick trips for gas. We were one happy, HUGE family.
But over time, a short time in fact, Smartypants lost interest. Sometime around her third birthday, when she discovered Barbie dolls and Disney Princess action figures, suddenly her babies weren't so important anymore. They'd be left in the car for days at a time, forgotten beneath a blanket on the floor in a corner of her bedroom, left outside in the snow to brave the elements and fight for survival, banging on the door for hours until we let them back in (okay, maybe not, but you get the point).
I was sad. Not so much because I cared what dolls she played with, but because it truly felt like we were saying goodbye to old friends. Never again would we hide under blankets or climb into boxes together. Never would we pile into the car after 20 minutes of frantically searching for Scared-e (who hid in a random kitchen cabinet, because, as Smartypants informed me, that's what cats do). No more lunches together, no more walks to the park. No more anything.
So it is here I would like to bid a fond farewell and a sincere thank you to Monkey, Scared-e, and Ula ula u la la. You're all very dirty now, but that's because you had the love and friendship of my little girl, and she took you everywhere. You kept her company in the cold backseat of an automobile, and you snuggled with her beneath the warmth of a blanket at night. Feel free to visit whenever you can. You'll always be welcome in our home. Thank you. We love you. And we'll miss you.
This post was originally shared on my at-home parenting blog, The Daily Writer, which has long since vanished. I’ve migrated many of the posts to this site for sentimental reasons.