Thursday, September 27, 2007

My Summer of the Monkeys

In the book Summer of the Monkeys, a country boy in the late 1800s or early 1900s, named (if I remember correctly) Jay Berry Lee, spends his summer on a quest to earn enough money to buy himself a pony and a gun. Along the way, he finds out that a large group of circus monkeys escapes near the woods where he lives, and that there is a large reward for the person who finds them - a large enough reward to buy his horse and gun outright.

Capturing the monkeys proves to be a challenge. They're a wily folk, those monkeys. They trick Jay many times, they get him drunk (I bet that's not in the Disney version!), they get him in trouble, and generally prove hard to control. But, in the end, they're also fragile, and when a giant rainstorm blows through and the weather turns cold, they willingly surrender themselves to Jay to be taken care of, and Jay gets his reward when he gives the monkeys back to the circus.

'Course, being a children's book, Jay learns some lessons along the way about the evils of liquor, about compassion, about using his time wisely, and about how to make hard decisions. In the end, the real reward for Jay isn't the money, but is the summer he spent trying to wrangle a group of circus monkeys. (He got another reward too, but I'll let you read the book to figure that one out.)

I think about this book sometimes when I think of carefree summer days, spending time on whatever strikes your fancy, or when I think about what it must feel like to not worry about what comes next.

This summer was my summer of the monkeys. Melissa and I were talking the other day, and it occurred to me that this fall is only the 8th summer of my life where I didn't have to prepare for school. I've literally been in school for 23 years of my life. If you don't count those first 5 years of life before kindergarten, then this is only the 3rd summer in which my summer isn't rudely interrupted by school.

My circus monkeys just showed up out of nowhere. They're a wily bunch, hard to control and conniving, but they're also fragile and lovable. Ultimately, the real reward isn't the stuff I got this summer (and I got some cool stuff), but is the summer I spent trying to wrangle a couple of circus monkeys.

I also got to spend some much needed time off, thinking about things outside of my property line only when I needed to, which ended up not being very often. For an introvert like me, taking time to recharge is the way I learn about compassion, and how to make the hard decisions, and, uh ... the evils of liquor. Hmm, I guess the analogy breaks down at some point, doesn't it?

Oh, well. It was fun while it lasted.


Christy said...

I remember reading that book in 4th grade. Thanks for the refresher - and the nostalgia! I'm assuming those are your kids, and they are so cute...

Benjamin said...

Yeah, those are my kids. I probably should have said that somewhere in the actual post.

I don't remember when I read that book. It was past 4th grade, I'm sure. Probably more like 6th grade? I wonder if kids still read this book?

Jessica said...

since i, the teacher, have never heard of said book, i'm going to say "no, i don't think many people still read the book." but, really, what do i know?!

glad to see you back, ben!

Benjamin said...

Dude, you have seriously never heard of Summer of the Monkeys by the amazing Wilson Rawls?

At least tell me that you have heard of "Where the Red Fern Grows", which is one of his more famous books, even if it isn't as good.

Jessica said...

why, yes, i have. but i never read it. i saw the sucked. figured the book would suck too.

Chris B. said...

hey Benjamin, got your comment on my blog, thanks for checking in; I've been meaning to get a little more consistent with my blogging, but we'll see what really happens.