The Hall of Suitors and Paramours

Sweet Monkey

The Perfect Husband

 
 

The Hall of Suitors and Paramours


Suitor No 1: Sweet Monkey- (Kathleen’s first love)

By Kathy Calderwood

 
t2The carnival came to my town in mid June that year. Washed, combed, and anticipating the evening, I waited on the front steps for my parents and sister to get ready. I proudly wore my new rust-red sweater with an angora kitten on the left shoulder that my grandmother had just knit. The fluffed out kitten featured a real red ribbon around its neck.
I felt beautiful. Everything around me was beautiful too. Bursting with infatuation for everything, I was on fire with life. I had five quarters in my pocket and anything was possible. We were going to the carnival. I was four.
The next things I remember were the flashing lights, music, the smell of forbidden fried food, newly cut grass, and cotton candy. I could feel the excitement in the air.
Soon we were looking up at two little monkeys in yellow and red racecars. A crowd of people was cheering. A seemingly 12 ft. tall fashionable woman, dressed like a Little Lulu character, and wearing a 40’s matching maroon hat and dress, to my right smiled at me
The smallest in the crowd, I was silently rooting for the little blondish monkey, but I really just wanted to get to the swings. Suddenly a man with a microphone was announcing that the winner monkey would pick “his girlfriend”. That was the first time I knew things before they happened.
My heart palpitated. I slumped in my new sweater.” Oh no. Please not me. Don’t choose me, “I silently pleaded. The monkeys were walking around on the track, and I knew the sandy colored monkey was going to pick me. It was too late to rudely cover the angora kitten on my sweater. I lowered my eyes like a proper Victorian woman. No! When I looked up the monkey was at my part of the oval track, pointing at me. We locked eyes. He had a very sad but hopeful look on his face. People were pulling me up to the microphone, but I pulled back. Noooo!!
Dearest monkey it wasn’t about you. I had stage fright. He refused to pick another girlfriend, and I refused to go up there. The crowd was pushing me. I was terrified. I probably cried. I’m a crier. The carnival was ruined. Even the swings promised no delight.. I had refused the adorable sad little monkey because I was too shy.
Tucked in bed later, I wished I could have said yes and walked up to the man saying something about how appealing the fur texture on the monkey was, and that I had noticed his piquet shirt with his adorable well ironed sailor collar, and weren’t his eyes soulful? Even then I knew my fabrics. My mother was a seamstress. Waffle piquet, French peau de soir, eggshell brocade, and of course, corduroy.
Horrified with possibly ‘hurting the sweet monkey’s feelings’, I stared at my darkened Jack & Jill wallpaper.
My mother was big on never but never hurting anyone’s feelings. The monkey’s face seemed sadder and sadder in my memory as I tossed and turned in my twin bed. Maybe he wasn’t fed enough or perhaps he was mistreated. Maybe he had to sleep on hay with no blankets and no mother. What did monkeys eat for protein anyway? They were probably only feeding him bananas and ignoring the 7 food groups.
I planned to sneak out in the dark and kidnap him from a tent. THE tent.
I made a rolled up pink blanket and pretended it was the blonde monkey. I kissed him repeatedly, comforted him and promised I would save him from harm. I told him he was beautiful, because he was.
Next, what to do with a hidden monkey? Here’s my 4-year-old idea. For breakfast Cheerios and water. For dinner? Spaghettios…cold. I would keep him under my bed so my mother wouldn’t notice. I planned and planned. I would make it up to him. I sewed him a shirt with arms. I would heal him with love. My sincere love. Monkey love.
The circus left town.
I still am ashamed of myself for not saving him. The hay…the scary microphone guy. We could have had lunches together at Woolworth’s with French fries and Cokes. He could have been my best friend.

*****
Much Later
Fifty years later I was at an Eastman House photography show entitled “Why Look at Animals?” In a little pamphlet was a photograph, “Circus Monkeys,” from1950. “Holy lovin’ Mother o’ Jaiysus!” There was my sandy monkey wearing a waffle piquet sailor collared shirt!!! His soulful eyes!!!!!! My first adored adoree.
I made a little painting of him with fireworks in the background in an imported Italian frame. I still think of him as suitor One. Sweet Monkey.
After that, things went downhill. All my romantic relationships with men remained very similar and I usually knew the beginnings and endings ahead of time.
It went sort of like this:
Don’t notice me and don’t choose me. I’m not here. I’m invisible. Wait, maybe I have made a mistake. Maybe you’re right and I will save you. Please do me a favor and hide under the bed. I love you and I’ll feed you  even if you’re a marshmallow on fire. Uh oh, this is a mistake. Changed my mind. OK, this is not working with the cold spaghettios and I’m sick of cooking anyway. Goodbye, sweetheart. I’ll never forget you. Till’ death do us part.