Thursday, October 27, 2005

Fierce Creatures

The first attack happened when I was four and my sister AJ was 3.

My memories are hazy of course but my parents were both there as was my third sister T who was only a baby.

In Penang, circa 1972, one of the big attractions was the Botanic Gardens. Tribes (Mobs? Schools? Flocks?) of smallish hairy grey monkeys with thin red hands and beady eyes roamed openly around this pleasant expanse of parklands.

They were free to chitter and play and caper in the trees and simply do what small grey monkeys do best which is to steal food, masturbate and spread disease.

How we clapped and laughed at their antics.

On this day, as part of the family outing, our parents had endowed us with little bags of hard dry peanuts with which to tempt our hairy playfellows into providing still more simian tricks.

My four year old fist stuffed with peanuts, I felt heady with the power of largesse.
I have the peanut bag. All monkeys must love and adore me.
I dispensed them sparingly, not wanting to over value their talents and spoil them for the future.

Was that a cartwheel?
Here have a peanut.

Pulling your mate’s tail and causing an earpiercing screech?
Two peanuts for you my friend.

Leaping five feet towards me and baring your fangs in an unpleasant manner?
Take the bag, I want my Mummy.

My sister AJ was not so fast. A second monkey followed in the wake of the first and jumped up, biting her on the face. That was the end of that little outing. My mother, with T in her arms, was furious. She complained bitterly to the gatekeepers on our way to the hospital. They were stoic.

These are the Monkey Gardens. Those are the Monkeys.
Can you identify the Monkey who bit your child?

She could not.

Eight years later we were back in the Monkey Gardens. This time, there was a new babe-in-pram, K. As we walked, we remembered the attack on AJ years ago. We laughed gaily as we described how terrifying it had been.

Actually I didn’t laugh quite as gaily as all that – those monkeys really were scary.

As a girl guide I had experienced the unique trauma of a “Monkey raid” during a camping holiday. Along with reef knots, splints and square lashings we were taught that there is no negotiation with monkeys. If they were brazen enough to enter our tents we were to let them take whatever took their fancy. There would be no heroes. Many a can of Impulse Body Spray and jar of instant coffee were lost on that camp.

AJ was holding a bag of peanuts and walking in the midst of our family group when the inevitable happened. A large grey monkey came swooping out of the trees to our left and heading straight for AJ it leapt up and bit her hand, causing her to scream and drop the peanut bag.

This time my mother was not so slow.

Dropping the handles of the stroller she rushed at the monkey, armed with her batik handbag and shouting like a maniac, she walloped it hard across the head. Stunned, the monkey turned a backward somersault and then disappeared back into the trees.

At the time I was full of admiration for my mother’s courage and jealous that it wasn’t me who caused her outburst. Now I realize of course that it was simply another illustration of Nature at work. Just as the monkey saw food in the peanut bag clutched in my sister’s sweaty palm and attacked for it, my mother saw her offspring under threat and attacked in response.

Mothers can be fierce creatures.

This week I learned that the last of my friends in the tight knit uni group has had her baby boy. Looking back through my blog I found where I had written about discovering she was pregnant, the irony of her saying to me a year or so earlier: Let’s you and I not have babies for a few years. Let’s wait until we’re 39. Meanwhile AJ has let my family know about Impending Number 4 and another friend is home from hospital with her baby girl.

Infertility also has many fierce creatures, so many scrabbling chittering reasons why my transfer didn’t work, why maybe the Frozen Embryo Transfer we’ll attempt in November won’t work, why maybe none of this crap, Chinese Fertility Goddess included, will ever work.

Can you identify the Monkey who bit your child?


Time seems to flow effortlessly around us, our friends and family grow and procreate and produce.

Somewhere in that fuzzy grey crowd of beady eyes and reddened hands, there might be the reason why C and I aren’t parents. But we can’t pick it out.

Instead we stand side by side, getting older, getting tireder. We're chucking peanuts while the rest of our life seems to walk on by.


Anonymous said...

The monkey thing! I can remember being 6 or 7 and wanting those sea monkeys advertised in the comics. I dreamt about being able to see those lttle people in their underwater castle waving at me. I begged my parents to get them for me. They never did. When one of my friends soon after aquired some sea monkeys I was so disappointed to see that they were just some sort of bug in the water that I cried. The monkey on the back, the grey monkeys with the beady eyes, the magic sea monkeys; good or bad we're the ones that invest them with whatever power they have. Perhaps you just need to find your mother's batik handbag and beat them back into the bush.

Gabrielle said...

We had a similar experience with a kangaroo when I was a youngster and my brothers (twins) were in their pram and were attacked. Maybe it was an infertile kangaroo trying to steal one of them?

Some days we too find ourselves in a holding pattern, waiting for our turn to become parents. Meanwhile, our godchild has just turned 6 - yep, the one who was born when we first started talking about having a family. The arrival of the same godchild who provoked everyone else in our circle of friends and immediate family to start procreating. There are now 9 of the little blighters. But on the upside, we have a room full of hand-me-downs, waiting...

amanda said...

Yep. I feel the same way. I'm sorry any of us have to feel like that.

laura said...

Time does seem to flow effortlessly, while you have to try with such overwhelming, exertering effort to achieve what should be rightfully yours. I look back, though, and remember that there were parts of my life that did occur without much effort, and I wasn't very thankful for them at the time.

On the monkey subject, I had a mean battle with a temple monkey in Nepal over a piece of coconut. I think I just gave in, for fear of rabies and all.

surly girl said...

i'm scared of monkeys. but then i'm scared of pretty much everything that isn't a dog or a cat.

keep the faith, OG. we never know what fate has in store for us. i understand the need to explore the negative what-ifs but isn't hope what keeps all of us going, regardless of what we're hoping for?

Calliope said...

reminds me of when I was 6 & everyone got Malibu barbies for Christmas & I got books. When school started up again everyone brought their barbies. That pit in the gut feeling is resurfacing now...everyone's got their babies & I have books.

Paula said...

I am the last of seven children. I watched as they all produced and I rejoiced for them and wept for me. I went through infertility treatment. I went through a divorce. I met a new man and went through two miscarriages. Then IVF gave me my miracle and nature gave me a second bonus one to follow it. Was it worth the heartache? Yes, beyond any doubt. Motherhood is better than anything I ever dreamed of. Hold on, keep going, and I will pray that your miracle will appear soon.

fisher queen said...

I am right there with you. I just got two announcements- one a preganancy and one a birth- from women who hadn't even met their husbands when we first started trying.

Lut C. said...

The only monkeys around here are stuck in the zoo, poor creatures.

The procreating is just getting started in my circle of friends and relatives. We haven't told them what is up, so we can't ask them to spare us.

I hope your luck changes very soon.

Manuela said...

Impulse Body Spray!!!! Wow... does the mention of THAT product bring back a flood of pre-teen agst...

(That was my attempt to distract myself from the other more ick feelings I'm tired of feeling in the face of more pg news...)

mm said...

I've always hated zoos... the smells, the caged animals with fierce expressions, the tacky tourists in ill fitting shorts. I don't know what that says about my potential for being a good mother. I mean, if I can't even deal with funky smells, how am I going to do deal with diaper changing? And then if I have children, they'll expect me to take them to the zoo. Because that's what children do... they want to go to the zoo! Argh!

MC said...

I feel like I'm in a holding pattern as well. Everyone has lapped us now. It seems that having a baby is getting further and further away and yes I feel tired as well.

On monkeys, my husband grew up in Sri Lanka and often tells me how vicious they are. They used to raid people's houses and steal food and stuff.
MM I hate zoos as well. They are the last places I want to go when I've travelled somewhere.

April said...

Beautiful memory evoking post. Can we just sit together and chunk our peanuts at the monkeys?

zhl said...

One of my closest friends wanted to wait so she and I could be pregnant together. Good thing I told her not to wait; her daughter just turned four.

Hope the FET goes well, and you get the best Christmas present ever.

Dramalish said...

Hoping, praying, and sending all my most positive wishes that you and C find the magic peanut that satisfies all the monkeys- both amiable and hostile.

And then one day, you can gaily laugh with your family as the monkey threat ceases to hold power over you.


Nico said...

wouldn't it be great if a batik handbag were all it took to beat back our monkeys?

It is so unfair that some of us seem to have flocks of monkeys, while around us we see all our friends and family with nary a one.

aj said...

Ah, yes. The Monkeys, the Mother and the Batik handbag. A story I remember well.

I had thought I'd learnt my lesson - don't flaunt the peanuts - but still the monkeys come after me to bite me when I least expect it.

I hope for you, those mean old monkeys stay away now so you and C have your peanuts in peace.

DD said...

I'm hoping that next time, like your mother, you will be able to smack back that thief stealing your peanuts of hope. You deserve to have that day in the park, pushing your very own pram...monkeys be damned!

Anonymous said...

Your last few posts have been particulary evocative.

Now all I can think is, "the doctor said no more monkey's jumping on the bed!"

Urgh. Damn monkeys.

thalia said...

I don't know who or what I should be smacking, or at what point the peanuts were stolen, it's all a blur. I think smacking someone would be quite satisfying at this point...

I hope your monkeys get their own peanuts soon.

Alexa said...

Well said, Ova Girl. A lovely post. I wish there were something I could do to keep the Monkeys at bay for you...

Anonymous said...

I don't know what to say. Your post has overwhelmed me, but I don't want to lurk either. The image of you and C chucking peanuts as you grow "older and tireder," it's heartbreaking because it feels so familiar.

elle said...

stupid monkeys - sorry you are feeling so down - hope things look up for you.

Juliabohemian said...

wow, that would never happen in the US. They are so afraid of being sued you can't even look at the animals unless there is 6 inches of glass between you.

There was that one instance of the man who was brutally attacked by the monkey who had somehow escaped in Bakersfield, CA.