Sunday, 15 January 2017

Teddies and Other Animals

19:13:00 Posted by Jill Reidy Red Snapper Photography , , , , , , , , 5 comments
Mojo mark 1

When I was teaching I bought myself a cheap, soft toy monkey who was destined to be a dunce for the rest of his life.  The six year old children in my class decided he should be called Mojo (to go with the polar bear called Polo who already lived in the corner of the room) and set about trying to teach him the basics.  The idea was that Mojo sat on my lap, looking happy but gormless, whilst I fired a series of questions to the children gathered around me.

“4 add 1?”
“2 add 3?”
“Can you sound out ‘pet’?”
“What does ‘dog’ start with?”

And so on.

Mojo was supposed to try and answer before the children, by whispering in my ear.  Needless to say, the children were desperate to beat Mojo, whose answers were invariably ridiculous.  The result was the children had a lot of fun, learned their sounds, added up their numbers, and Mojo remained oblivious to his own ineptitude, smiling inanely from my lap and receiving a lot of sympathetic comments along the way.  He always held a special place in my heart.

I took early retirement from teaching the same year my grandson was born, and somehow (I wish I could remember how) Mojo became Rio’s favourite soft toy.  Except he wasn’t just a toy, he was much more that that.   He was a supreme comforter and as time went on, became part of the family.  Rio moved around a lot in his first few years, between his mum, his dad and us, his grandparents, and wherever Rio went, Mojo was being dragged along too.  There was no chance of sleep without Mojo for Rio to rest his weary head on.  We all had a lot invested in that monkey.

I can honestly say, one of the worst weekends of my life followed the loss of Mojo one Thursday morning when Rio was seven.  I received a distraught phone call from my daughter.  Rio had been going to his dad’s that night so whilst he was at nursery, Laurey had taken Mojo, in a bag with some clothes, to the house and, finding his dad out, had left the bag in the side entrance.  Somehow, within a few hours, Mojo, the clothes and the bag had disappeared.  If you have never had a child with a comforter – in whatever form - that goes everywhere with that child then you have no idea of the distress caused by the loss of such an item.  Not only was Rio distraught, we all were.  It was like a death, and we reacted accordingly.  The worst part was seeing Rio trying to put on a brave face.  Laurey and I held it all together while we reassured him we were doing everything possible to find Mojo, but when Rio left the room the pair of us dissolved in tears.  When Rio returned he buried his head in his mum’s lap and sobbed.  I genuinely believe he was grief stricken.

I come from a long line of capable women who think that, not only is there a solution to every problem, but that we are the ones who have that solution.  I went into problem solving mode and eventually came up with an answer we hoped would make Rio happy again.  We had researched enough to know that we couldn’t replace Mojo with a newer model.  He had become extinct a few years previously.  I spent a day, searching desperately online for a similar monkey to no avail.  The only answer was to get another monkey and adapt it to look as much like Mojo as possible.  As a competent needlewoman I was confident I could do the job, but as a grandma I knew that Rio would not be fooled.  Only recently he had cried inconsolably and then stood by the washing line as Mojo dripped dry after a much needed wash.  He’d explained that the smell of Mojo was a big part of his appeal and I’d already agreed never to wash him again. 
The original Mojo, on his travels

The new Mojo, pre-op

The new Mojo, post-op

The following day, the new monkey arrived by special delivery and at vast expense.  He had long arms and legs, a bright smile and no ears, whereas Mojo had been short limbed with only the hint of a smile and ears like Dumbo.  I had quite a job on my hands.  What worried me more than the physical transformation of Mojo was the problem of explaining away the newness, the lack of worn fabric on his head and of course, the smell.  I set to work, chopping off limbs, adding ears and altering facial features.  By the time I'd finished Mojo had been reborn.  We were just left with the problem of explaining away the obvious differences.  And this is where Mrs Peacock and the Monkey Orphanage came to the rescue.....

The letter from the Monkey Orphanage

I'm not sure whether Rio, as a bright seven year old, was totally fooled by the orphanage story but Ido remember him telling me, years afterwards, that he'd gone home that day, hidden under his bed with Mojo and cried tears of joy.  As a family we never talk about the loss of Rio's favourite monkey, it was such a traumatic event, but as I look at Mojo now and see how worn he is once again I'm sure Rio would say the 'adoption' has been a great success. 

Long live teddies and other animals, but please keep your eye on them at all times.

The day the monkey disappeared by Jill Reidy

I like to think
The day that Mojo disappeared
He’d decided he was big enough
And clever enough
To set off on his own
That he didn’t need his daddy any more
(For that’s how Rio saw himself)
And he was going on one of life’s big adventures

He took the bag
Peered around the bin
And when the coast was clear
He made a dash
Nimbly climbing the nearest lamp post
And hanging there till the bin men had finished emptying bins
The shoppers had finished shopping 
And the children had gone in for their tea

Then, swiftly, he swung from post to post
Along streets where the dark seeped in
Until he reached some open spaces
Not quite the jungle
But maybe a local park
Where he met up with the other missing toys
Who had fled their owners
For a life of freedom

That’s what I like to think

Thanks for reading     Jill



Lady Curt said...

Absolutely wonderful story. It brought back memories of my son's loss of a Womble ......There are heavens for all teddy types....

Steve Rowland said...

Bravo Jill. What a great blog and a wonderful poem. Thank you.

Jill Reidy Red Snapper Photography said...

Lady Curt and Steve, thank you both so much xx

Adele said...

Excellent read Jill. It says so much about you honey.

Jill Reidy Red Snapper Photography said...

Thanks Adele - I've only just seen this xxx