Lifestyle & Culture

Monkey Business: A Valentine’s Day Tale

Embracing monkeys

By Christine Ledbetter

IT’S HARD to justify why I’ve held onto a pair of stuffed animals for over 40 years. I don’t even remember how I came to own them.

Before there was Gund or Ty stuffed toys, R. Dakin & Co. ruled the market with plush animals such as mice, fish, frogs, elephants and bears. The soft toys were symbols of security, affluence and childhood play, according to a 1977 article in The New York Times.

When the company introduced a pair of embracing monkeys called Monkey Around,” the couple was so popular, Dakin had to fight off knockoffs in court. The company no longer exists, but you can find the pair gently used online for between $25 and $50.

We likely acquired the affectionate couple, as a wedding or Valentine’s gift. They are brown and red, and stand 11 inches tall. She wears a pink bow. Their eyes are closed; mouths in half-smiles. Arms link in a hug, sealed with Velcro.

We’ve had them since 1977, the first year of our marriage. In those early days, I dressed them up for holidays, switching out her bow and giving him jaunty ties and vests.

Symbolizing our passionate relationship, I sometimes placed them in libidinous positions. Or, I separated them and used boy monkey to illustrate when I was angry with spouse. I once locked boy monkey outside our apartment (husband, too). Another time I served him the toy on a plate for dinner with a side of potatoes.

When I was pregnant I dressed girl monkey in a maternity smock; when my husband had a vasectomy, I placed a band-aid on boy monkey’s private parts.

Over the decades, we changed jobs and relocated 13 times. The monkeys moved, too— from our first apartment at the University of Missouri to our DC-area condo.

After those first years, I stopped paying much attention to the monkeys. They were forgotten and relegated to the top of bookcases or closet shelves.

Time passed; life changes occurred. Our children grew. They had children. Our parents died. We retired and traveled. Covid struck; we got it.

Within the past year, we’ve had scans, radiation, biopsies and replacement parts. If I were still putting bandages on all the hurt parts, the monkeys would be swathed with gauze from head to toe.

Today boy monkey is grizzled; girl monkey’s bow is frazzled.

Both are faded.

But the Velcro holds. They embrace yet. Inseparable to the end.

—Christine Ledbetter, the former arts editor of the Washington Post, lives in the Midwest and writes about culture.

3 thoughts on “Monkey Business: A Valentine’s Day Tale

  1. Anita says:

    48 years together is quite the feat these days and nothing less than a miracle of God for many. I pray that your love and friendship (which I believe the latter- at times – may be most important) will be blessed by God long into your continued journey together.

  2. Cindy Marshall says:

    I just love this, Chris! And love your memories and memorial monkeys!!
    They deserve a permanent place of recognition. Thanks for sharing. ♥️

  3. cynthia tilson says:

    Loved this one! Here’s to love and the velcro metaphors that bind us all together in life! Happy Valentine’s!

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