So whenever I text or talk to my daughter, I refer to her as my little Monkie, it doesn’t matter that she is 19 and in college. She is still my little Monkie. So when she came home the other day for the weekend, I paused to reflect on why I call her Monkie, and why I spell it that way.
It all goes back to a poster-sized print we had hanging in our living room in our house in Philadelphia. The print was Monet’s Les Coquelicots. For those of you not familiar with this piece, it shows a beautiful fields of red poppies, a white house with a red roof in the background, a row of perfectly placed trees and two mothers and their respective children walking across the poppy field in pairs separate from one another.
For the purpose of this discussion, we will direct our attention to the pair in the foreground. It is a woman with a blue parasol over her right shoulder, a muted gray dress of the Edwardian era and a dark blue shawl over shoulders. To her right is her child, wearing what appears to be a little sailor outfit and a straw hat. The face on the child is not particularly detailed, basically a flesh-toned circle and a dot for the eyes and mouth.
One afternoon, when she was still very much in diapers, she was staring up at the picture. I asked what she was looking at to which she replied, “moknie.” Of course this cracked me up, an attempt to say monkey which clearly and wonderfully went awry. However, I had looked at that print a million times and never saw a monkey (much less a “moknie”), but curiously I picked her up and asked her to point the “moknie” was? Of course her finger went all over the place!
Anyone who has ever had, or spent any time with, small children knows that you will never get a straight, or often coherent response, so quite naturally we had to play the what-am-I-pointing-to game until we arrived at the small child in the sailor outfit. Honestly, I knew it would be the one she would pick, but it was more fun to play the game with her.
Having arrived finally arrived at the sailor child, I asked her if she thought it looked like a “monkey” and she kept correcting me saying “moknie.” This went back and forth a couple of times with me laughing hysterically, followed by her laughing. Needless to say it became a game at that point. I would occasionally point to the picture and ask her what it was and she would always say “moknie” and we would laugh, even long past the time she knew it was a child and definitely not a monkey. She never, to my recollection, referred to it as monkey, so the term “moknie” became rooted in her childhood and pointing to the picture, and asking her what it was because an ongoing ritual of ours.
After we moved from Philadelphia, I began calling her monkie, and spelling it that way as an homage to that very fond memory. I think I need to get her a small print of it for her dorm room. She’s probably laugh still!