“What’s with the rocks?”
“Do you have a few minutes? Pick one, and I’ll tell you a story.”
Rock #5 red: Humor
I’ve had a soft spot for simians ever since our four-year-old Danny, watching monkeys at a zoo groom each other, said, “Look, Mom! They’re cooperationing!”
Monkeys are as common in some parts of Brazil as squirrels and chipmunks are in Pittsburgh. One day our three-year-old Valerie was eating a banana in the back seat of the car when a monkey stuck its arm through the window and grabbed it! A similar thing happened when we were vacationing at our favorite mountainous national park, eating breakfast on the hotel’s veranda.
Monkeys were a delightful feature of the Pantanal, in central-west Brazil. The Pantanal is among the most biodiverse places on our planet, with over three hundred identified mammal species. Among them are several varieties of monkeys, from tiny tamarins, colorful little night monkeys and marmosets, to medium-sized capuchins and large spider and howler monkeys.
One peaceful morning Dave and I went for a walk, threading our way with some trepidation between sleeping alligators, and were startled by a huge raucous sound reverberating off the trees. It grew and grew into a rhythm like the beating of an enormous drum. It was terrifying, in part because we had no idea what we were listening to. Back at the hotel we learned that howler monkeys communicate in this manner across long distances.
The funniest experience we had with monkeys was in the Amazon. Our family rented a small boat and its crew for three days on the river, with occasional stops at points of interest. At one of these places was a collection of interesting jungle animals. We stroked sloths, viewed enormous anacondas, admired a family of capybaras, and laughed at the monkeys. One monkey leaped onto Karis’s shoulders, wrapping its hands around her eyes and its feet around her mouth. We tried everything we could think of to get that monkey off of her, but it held on tight. Finally, when Karis was getting somewhat desperate, our son Dan grabbed her, ran down to the shore of the river and held her body out over the water. That worked! The monkey apparently didn’t want to go swimming, so it let go, ran down her body and away into the forest. Too bad we were too preoccupied with the whole situation to think of taking pictures!
Like most little girls, Karis and her sisters loved to play dress-up. Our big box of dress-up clothes gleaned from resale shops and garage sales over the years was high on their priority list to include with our shipment when we moved to Brazil and rediscovered with glee when the shipment finally arrived months after we did. Neighborhood kids joined in the fun, even the boys. When we started a children’s club in our home, everyone wanted to have a part in the dramas Karis concocted and directed, with costumes patched together from that big box that gave wings to their imaginations.
We have photos of Karis dressed up for school plays, for ballet productions, and for dances she choreographed with her sisters for their father for Christmas.
And when she had to be in the hospital, Karis pretended that the hospital gowns were just one more dress-up party that she and the other children there had been invited to. For herself and for countless children over the years, her bright smile, imagination, and humor helped turn tragedy into comedy, leaving the worry where it belonged, with the grown-ups and with her Heavenly Father.