Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wishbones and Monkey Bites

I’ve been a contributor on a wonderful group website dedicated to the craft of writing, but this is my first time having my very own blog. I take this responsibility quite seriously. The relationship between storyteller and reader is precious, and I don’t take it lightly.

via Compfight

If you read my Welcome, you’ll know how I came up with the name Tea with Savages. I've decided it's time to push back against perfectionism and embrace the chaos and beauty of life. My little tribe of savages is made up of my children, my family, and my friends, both old and new. Now I’m hoping to bring together a new tribe who wants to share stories, musings, and ideas: you, whoever you are, reading this post right now, and me. The idea of finding a group of like-minded people resonates with me. When you take the time to open up and share yourself there are always others who reach back.  

I grew up hearing amazing stories from my family. I loved listening to them as much as I loved reading. Now I tell my own tales to my children, along with all the family stories from previous generations. I would like to share some of them with you. Maybe they will entertain you, or maybe they will remind you of your own childhood.

Here’s a little story that my children still love. It's about a monkey. That goes well with the “jungle of my mind theme,” don’t you think? I have a small wishbone shaped scar on the middle finger of my left hand. Yes, it's monkey-related.

My father's family came from Norway and moved to the United States. He was born in Stavanger, Norway and moved with his parents to Kent, Washington. There his younger siblings Jane and Ruben were born. We have a vast network of Norwegian relatives still in the area. My mother is Canadian. Growing up we moved often, mostly around Washington (and twice in California.) I suspect our somewhat nomadic lifestyle was due to my dad’s Viking blood.

When I was a little girl, my great uncle, who was married with one son, was a quirky man. His favorite pastime was crocheting beautiful things. I can vividly remember the smell of his house. The whole place smelled like Old Spice Cologne. We didn't know him very well, and didn't see him or his family often. The big draw to visit Great Uncle Iver was his pet capuchin monkey. 

We loved the monkey, of course, and begged to get to visit. One day my Grandma Anna took me to see him. Even though it was such a long time ago, I distinctly remember sticking my hand into the cage and feeding the monkey a Tootsie Roll Pop. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Not exactly the best diet for a monkey. I can only imagine how cute a capuchin monkey eating a Tootsie Roll Pop would be. Unfortunately, the monkey wasn't in the mood for candy. The next thing I knew, the little rascal bit my finger. Hard. His sharp little teeth sliced right through the skin.

I got a couple stitches and the doctor cleaned it thoroughly.  My parents weren’t too worried until the next day. My hand had swelled up to an enormous size and turned horrible colors, and I had developed a high fever. They rushed me to the emergency room. The doctors decided it was more than a regular infection, but were stumped as to what could be making me so sick. They took turns examining me, bringing in whoever was on staff. They were stumped. My parents were beside themselves.

After a shift change new doctors came to look at my strange case. This time one of the doctors happened to be a Vietnam vet. He knew immediately what it was: a jungle virus carried by that little monkey. They were finally able to treat me. That doctor's jungle expertise saved my life.

Wishbones and Monkey Bites: the early life of a writer
My blue monkey with some Tootsie Roll
Pops. He doesn't bite.
Things improved quickly for me, but not for the monkey. It wasn't safe to own a monkey who liked to chomp on people's fingers, especially if it was carrying a disease. The poor creature had to be put down. To this day I have a wishbone-shaped scar on my middle finger to show people that a monkey once bit me.

Do you have a crazy scar story? 
Let me know in the comments.


  1. That makes me very sad about the monkey. I guess there wasn't a way for it to be vaccinated?

    One time when I was about 9 and my brother was 4 I was pretending like I was going to hit him. He stumbled backwards and managed to bang his forehead against the corner of the wall that stuck out. There was blood EVERYWHERE and he had to go to the hospital to have stitches. I felt horrible. I'm not sure if the scar is still there or not because I don't usually examine his head too closely. :)

    1. Poor monkey. Hopefully it was the last resort. I don't think my parents told me his fate for quite a while after the incident.

      Your poor brother! Oops :)

    2. Your inspiring has inspired me.... :) Keep the pen inked and the well filled...If we meet in this jungle I'll buy you a coconut caramel latte....There's gotta be a Starbucks in here your work....


  2. More than a few Christmas Eve's ago I came home after working a late day shift at around 8:30....My then wife was cleaning the house for Santa and other Christmas Day guests....

    My then 4 and 11 year old daughters were in the mood to play...The 4 year old (Lexi) took off my boots for me...She then proceeded to remove my sock...I joked and said I needed it back, it held the stink in...She ran off with it, the 11 year old (Kacie) out front...

    As Lexi made the turn for the bathroom, and obvious safety, she bounced off Kacie and into a desk drawer...Her eyebrow hit the corner and the blood began to pour...My wife, unable to hear our yells, vacuumed away...It wasn't till I carried Lexi to the stairs that she saw what happened....

    We all left for the ER...When asked about the gouge above her left eye by the nurse my precious little Lexi said, "my daddy did it."....

    Even after the explanation to the nurse I spent Christmas Eve in the waiting room afraid of being arrested...It didn't help that when some Officers came in my precious 11 year old said they were there for me...They weren't...The precious Nurse was convinced by then I was innocent...

    To this day, every Christmas, I am reminded of Lexi's two stitches and my near brush with the law....

    1. Oh no! Poor little thing! It seems like even minor cuts to the face bleed like crazy. My kids have had a couple of those. Accidents happen :)

    2. My brother's scar was over his left eyebrow! Must be a common injury.

  3. I have a lot of story worthy scars. The one across my nose? One should not play ball in the house. The knees? Tribute to bike rides, roller skating, and tree climbing. There are surgery related scars, and hobby related scars, and scars that tell a story about a very dark time in my life... one of which almost looks like a cross... coincidence? I think not. ;) No monkey bite scars though.

    1. I bet you have many stories to tell, Donna. I'm glad the darkest time is over.

  4. Love this post, Nat! I have lot's of scars, most of them internal. But one scar rests atop my cheek bone. I was 5ish, living with my parents in a tiny town off of Lake Houston in south Texas. My dad was pioneering a church in our home and he decided to set up a huge red and white striped tent in our front yard to host a revival. He decided he needed to build some altars, so he set up a makeshift work table from the back of his truck. I was dressed for church early and traipsed out of the house and down the sidewalk to see what my daddy was doing. I stepped up behind him just as he yanked back on the pull cord to start the saw. He punched me in the face and I went down. Of course he went bizerk and we all started screaming when we saw the blood. I got stitches and a nice little scar story.

    1. Thanks, LaDonna :) Great story, I can totally picture it. Poor baby girl - your dad must have felt so bad!