Weekly Writing Challenge: The Best Medicine — ‘Monkey Ears’

July 9, 2013 at 5:43 pm | Posted in Challenges | Leave a comment
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Family Photo of my baby sister and I.

Family Photo of my baby sister and I.

This week’s challenge is about humor writing. When I first read David Sedaris’ work, I realized a little bit of my calling. My family is super dysfunctional and whereas I am not a good fiction writer, I knew I could skew the facts enough to make something hilarious. Trying to write something our of thin air? I am no good at it. I just needed to take my family’s dysfunction and use it to my advantage.

So, this year, I tried my hands again on NaNoWriMo. I failed — again. But I got a few good stories out of it.

And below is one of them:

“Monkey Ears”

Holidays in the Fehlinger family has always been a fiasco. I don’t know whether it was my mother putting off decorations until Dec. 24, my dad doing the same with presents and just the fact that family was coming over the next day, but we were always frazzled. The extended family came to visit and not only did my mother have to prepare a huge meal for about 30 guests, but my aunt did Christmas Eve for the immediate family, and somehow my mother had to help. She had three small kids and the time, and my aunt, in her own world, never thought to help out.

As a pre-teen, I was always in my own world. I helped around the house, of course, and calmed the nerves of my screaming, sarcastic parents but I always loved a party. I wanted to wear my very best and have a beautiful hair ‘do. I would read the latest magazines and get tips on party planning. I wanted the days to be magical, perfect — something I could never pull off. I always had a fantasy of how the parties would go, and I would have elaborate plans set out. When I played the piano and flute, I would hold concerts for my guests. I wanted to do place settings, names plates and traditional dishes. I always tried to convince my mother to do a King’s Cake, but I guess small toys in a cake worried her too much.

When we went down the stairs on Christmas Day — of course waking my parents at 6 a.m. and getting stalled for 20 minutes at a time — I had my hair full of sponge curlers. Many holiday photos taken from the sidelines will prove that. Yes, I was a weird one. No, not stuck in the ’60s but a cheerleader of many years and a fascination with curls. I also loved having a Christmas nightgown on. There were years that my mother dressed us in matching pajamas, and the weird part is, I loved it. There is something about perfection that has always caught my attention.

So, my brother and sister are quite younger than me, so I took joy in “helping” them open their presents. Honestly, I did enjoy the look on their faces when they saw what Santa brought them. I think a larger part of me was a snoop.

One particular year, my baby sister was only three or four years old. We didn’t always get the latest toys, but many of them were. These were the days before Tickle-Me Elmo, Monster High dolls, and laptops and cellphones for kids pawned off as toys.

We had gotten her a monkey doll that had ears that spin when you squeezed its tummy. It was pink, the “traditional” banner of females.

After all the presents were unwrapped and my brother already tearing through his toys, I had picked up the pink monkey to show my sister. I wanted to play with her. Babies are only amusing for so long, and I got to play with her toys.

Holding it in front of her, I said, “See, Allison, a monkey!”

I proceeded to squeeze its stomach and the ears went whirling around. An instant smirk came to her face and a noise from her mouth.

“It’s funny, isn’t it?” I said, as I placed it closer to her. The ears whirled, she was laughing. Yet she wouldn’t take her toy.

I put it closer to her, hoping she would grab it and try, but it was like she was refusing.

It was then, a few minutes later, that I realized Allison was, in fact, crying. The tears had begun to form, and not tears of joy. That wasn’t a smirk or smile, but a distortion of her lips out of fear. And that sound? Crying, not laughing.

My sister hated the whirling monkey ears, she is afraid of her Christmas toy. And I was shoving it in her face.

My family tried to give her time to warm up to the toy. I mean, it was cute and funny! My parents spent money on it.

But no matter how many times we tried to get her to play with it, or an unsuspecting person shoved it in her face, she cried. And cried.

I guess Barney was the only one that has her heart. And there weren’t any pink monkeys on that show.


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