“Mom,” my 16 year old daughter said to me last week. “Scott found the flying monkey again in his room. I heard it squealing!” The flying monkey refers to a small stuffed animal about six inches long wearing a cape and mask.
The hands of the monkey are attached to a large rubber band and when launched correctly the monkey flies through the air, screaming a high pitched yowl at its intended victim. My son Scott is 22 and a senior at the University of Idaho. He has owned a flying monkey since he was 11. The monkey has suffered torn arms and numerous failed flights but has been part of our household since more than ten years. Our pets live in fear of the monkey which when launched correctly can harmlessly shoot after a cat or dog who wisely runs at its terrifying sound. My daughter hates the monkey because as soon as it arrived on Christmas, Scott learned to shoot the monkey into her bedroom from his room without his parents knowing he was annoying his younger sister yet again.
I actually fell in love with monkey when I first saw it. My husband and I were in Seattle for couples get-away. It was December and we were celebrating our joint birthdays which are both in December. We had a house sitter for the kids and for two glorious days we were free to wander and eat gourmet food in Seattle, one of my favorite cities. We flew to Seattle on Friday night right after work. You can fly out of Boise at 5:30 and get into Seattle at 5:30, one of the amazing features of different time zones. We were staying on the Seattle harbor at the Edgewater Inn, a beautiful older hotel resting atop Pier 67 on Seattle’s Elliott Bay. The four story 223-room Edgewater is Seattle’s only waterfront hotel.
Originally built for the 1962 World’s Fair, the hotel has hosted the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, KISS, and the Village People. The hotel has large romantic bedrooms with gas fireplaces, cozy quilts and big windows looking out on the bay.
The weather was absolutely miserable when we landed on Friday night, pouring cold rain and sleet. When we left the hotel to walk to the restaurant, the wind turned the hotel’s umbrella inside out. We ducked in one of the closest restaurants to eat and warm up. I don’t remember the food or the restaurant but the cold weather made the escape back to our room with quilts and fireplace even more romantic. The rooms of the Edgewater have windows that look out on the ocean. The next morning those windows showcased bleak gray clouds with no rain but lots of wind churning up white caps and slapping the murky ocean water up against the pier.
Seattle is a walking city. We spent the cold, brisk morning exploring small shops and stopping for coffee and snacks between Pikes Place Market and Union Square. Somewhere in our travels, we stopped at a toy shop where several monkeys were flying through the air along with other moving toys. I was enchanted by all the high energy in the shop filled with squealing children, excited for Christmas and many toys I hadn’t seen before. I thought we should buy two monkeys, one for each of our children (then 11 and 5). My more conservative husband limited my purchase to one and so the flying monkey came into my possession.
We finished our afternoon by wandering down to Elliot Bay Bookstore then at Union Square (Elliot Bay has now moved to Capitol Hill). Elliot Bay is rated one of the great independent bookstores in this country with over 150,000 books, set on cedar bookshelves in exposed red brick rooms. I have never been in the book store when it wasn’t busy and Christmas is, of course, it’s busiest time of year. We spent several hours out of the cold Seattle wind, drinking coffee and browsing through new books along with crowds of other people.
That evening we had dinner at Wild Ginger, a premier Pan Asian restaurant, ranked as one of the top restaurants in the world. Wild Ginger is located at 3rd and Union, easy walking distance from Seattle’s main downtown hotels. The web site boasts of providing diners with a culinary tour of China and Southeast Asia. I remember my Hanoi tuna, seared rare with almonds, garlic and shallots being a delicacy fit for the Gods. I don’t think I have ever had tuna since which was prepared as well.
We flew home on the 10 A.M. Alaskan flight the next day, touching down in Boise on Sunday around noon
Recent research has shown (not surprising to my way of thinking) that experiences bring people more happiness than things. Whenever the flying monkey takes flight through our house with its hideous high pitched squeal, I am absolutely delighted. The monkey reminds me of a magical weekend (10 years ago) spent in Seattle with my husband of 27 years. I once again feel the sting of cold rain, zapping my face like a thousand miniscule needles as I run towards the beckoning warmth of a highly rated hotel room. I remember holding hands as we dashed across streets not walking to the signals as we should because few cars were out in the down pour. I remember my delight at throwing open the door to our room and finding the gas fireplace lit and down comforter folded back as if welcoming us to climb right in. If I take time to savor the experience, I can feel the busy, bustling atmosphere of the Wild Ginger, the push of people trying to get seated, the excitement of waiting for a superb dinner, the clank of dishes and sliver ware, the swish of waiters moving quickly and efficiently through tightly packed tables. The monkey also reminds me of my strong ties to my home in Boise. My kids are never far from my mind when I travel. I am always glad when I open the door to the welcoming surroundings and familiar sounds of our Boise home.
Little did I know when I bought the monkey, that the odd skinny plush toy would become an experiential purchase. An experiential purchase is one which provides an association with one’s identity, connections and social behaviors. For me, the monkey, which is really only an ugly useless toy when left dormant and forgotten in a young man’s room, becomes a magical creature when launched through the house producing groans of “ not again” from a younger sister, wild barking from two dogs, puffed up hair and bristling tails from two cats and enchanted memories for me.