Family Fairy Tales
Who knows how these stories begin?
Someone mumbles something under his or her breath at Sunday dinner. Someone else gets bored and kicks the first someone under the table. There is mocking. Insults are traded, and before you can ask, “Is there going to be pudding?” a random mumble has become a favorite family fairy tale shrouded in adjectives and dolled up with frilly adverbs.
These are the stories that become part of the collective family experience or as we like to say, “Raise your hand if you think dad really saw a monkey sitting on a light pole next to Interstate-4.”
At the curve in the exit from the turnpike onto I-4, near the Millennial Mall, close to The Holy Land Experience, my husband swears he saw “something” sitting on top of one of the thirty-foot tall industrial light poles, looking at him.
“Did you see that?”
I remember he sounded breathless and breathy.
“What? That hopeless snarl of urban petroleum fueled congestion snaking through the labyrinth of cement jungle that resembles a concrete purgatory.”
I am a country girl. Cities make me itch.
“No, on top of that light pole. Something sitting, with a face. Like maybe a squirrel. It looked at me.”
I glanced over at the giant light poles lining the road.
“That would be some squirrel. Are you sure you saw a squirrel? Why would a squirrel shimmy up a pole like that? I mean, what’s up there that a squirrel would want?”
Traffic ground to a halt. We were on I-4, after all. I tried to imagine a squirrel with the kind of ambition required to sit on a pole, watching backed up traffic on the interstate.
My husband seemed unhappy with my interpretation of events.
“I said,” he began, “‘Like a squirrel.’ It had a face!”
He was starting to sound miffed.
“Babe, squirrels have faces, not big ones but eyes and stuff, sure. Faces absolutely.”
“Bigger. It was looking at me. It had a face. A big face.”
I squinted at the poles. They still looked really tall and smooth and hard to climb to the top of.
“Maybe it was a monkey,” I offered. “Monkey’s have faces. And they’d be able to climb up a pole like that.”
“A monkey! From where? Monkey town?”
Now, I was getting miffed. Then I pointed.
“From over there, those apartments behind the mall. Someone’s monkey got away. Climbed up a pole . . .”
He made a rude noise. I doubled down on my theory.
“And looked at you, with its face. Maybe it flew up there, because it’s a winged monkey.”
“People in those apartments cannot afford a monkey. Now you’re just making fun. ”
“No, if I said that I thought it was a chupacabra face looking at you from the top of a thirty foot light pole, that would be making fun. And how do you know those people cannot afford a monkey? Maybe they found a monkey. You’re a snob.”
“It had a face and looked at me.”
I made a rude noise.
At Sunday dinner that week, I said, “So, Dad saw a winged monkey with a chupacabra face, sitting on top of one of the light poles next to I-4. Discuss.”
And that’s how a family fairytale begins and grows and takes on a face of its own.
Linda (Plain and Small) Zern