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Monday, 25 May 2009

Jo-Jo the Monkey Faced Girl

By Johna Ferguson

When I was a young child, I was rather roly-poly. I also had a very round face and big ears that stuck right out between the strands of my very straight short hair. I guess if I were a cartoonist, I would have said, yes she looks somewhat like a little monkey.

In the summers, my family moved to our beach house and our only neighbors were my aunts and uncles and their children, nine of them, but they were all older than I was. We had no electricity then, no running water in the house, of course an out-house across the road, so it was rather primitive living compared to our living in town. But young children are not aware of those things; all they want to do is play.

One summer when I was five, my cousins, then in their teens, decided to put on a circus for their parents. They rigged up a big tent of blankets, and arranged all kinds of acts.

At that time my uncle had a Japanese family managing his oyster farm. One of their boys had learned to walk a tightrope, so of course his daring act was to be the show-stopper. Some of the girls were going to put on a short play they had written and another cousin was going to juggle oranges. All nine cousins plus the three Japanese children were to participate, but I was too young.

At that time my aunts had large trunks of cast-off clothes and costumes from who knows where. In the mess, was a cat costume that the tightrope walker wore, hooped skirts for some of the girls in the play and a small monkey suit. My cousins decided I could be a monkey and try to do a set of somersaults across the stage.

Well of course, I failed miserably to roll over even once and had to scurry off the stage on hands and feet. That moment sealed my fate; my cousins from then on called me, Jo-Jo the monkey faced girl. Of course it didn’t help that my name really was Jo.

That teasing went on and on and I thought it might never end, but then one summer there were no boy cousins and no Japanese manager’s family. War had been declared. The boys were off to fight and the Japanese family was moved to an internment camp.

I never thought of that forgotten nickname until it surfaced again 10 years ago in a very unusual way. That’s when I married for a second time, a Chinese man. Chinese go by their family name. It always comes first and then is followed by their given name which is not always used.

I was marrying a man whose family name was Zhou. The only problem being that Zhou is pronounced in not only Chinese, but also English just like the boy’s name Joe. That meant my name would now be Joe (Zhou) Jo, a harkening back to my past. I was sure no one would know about a monkey named Jo-Jo, but surprisingly, my husband joked and said, “Hey, now it’s Jo-Jo the monkey faced girl.” Thankfully no one else has teased me about it, including all my American friends.

But we probably all descended from monkeys, apes, gorillas or one of those families way back when, so now I am proud to be a name-sake in this modern world for them. What a great heritage I am carrying forth. But please, don’t call me Zhou Jo, just call me Jo.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


One of our greatest gifts, I think, is to be able to laugh at ourselves.
And by so doing, you gave us a chuckle, too. Thank you.

Oh the irony of it all; marrying a man named Zhou and becoming Jo Jo again. I won't call you that, I promise. Funny story.

Good story, but the ending surprised me and left me curious. How did the new husband know about your past nickname? Sounds like you were surprised and not too happy he used it. Interesting how old hurts linger, especially from childhood.
PS: I don't think we descended FROM monkeys; it's more that we share a common ancestor. (Not to be pedantic; I'm just always trying to get this straight myself!)

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