It was a stupid, insensitive thing to do, and I feel like a real jerk. I’m trying to make up for it, though.
Mary Ellen and I had just left Penrod, the annual art fair at the museum (now called Newfields). We were walking to our car, past some of the frat houses on the Butler campus. That’s when I saw him on the sidewalk, a tiny plastic facsimile of Woody, the star of an iconic animated series produced by Disney. He was really a work of art, just nine inches tall, and colorfully painted. All his limbs, hands, feet and head were poseable.
I have a thing for puppets and statues of all types. I own life-size figures of Laurel and Hardy and smaller versions of Howdy Doody, Groucho Marx and Buster Keaton, to name a few.
I picked up this little guy and imagined him sitting on the edge of my office desk or on my bookshelf, so I took him home. That night I realized what a terrible mistake I had made by removing Woody from the area. It brought back a memory of my own pal from years past, a story of a lost love. His name was Monkey, and he was a hand puppet about the size of a potholder. His little face was cream colored; the rest of his body was a furry chocolate brown. Everywhere I went, he was with me. Some kids have a blankie: I had a monkey.
My parents and I used to walk to a pond near our home to feed the ducks. One afternoon, Monkey had been in my hand or stuck in my pocket the whole time, but when we returned home, he was missing. I recall my father taking me back to the lake in the early evening, flashlight in hand, to search for my lost companion. Monkey was nowhere to be found. It was devastating. I almost flunked out of first grade because of the trauma.
Feeling bad about what I had done while leaving the art fair, I shared my monkey story with Mary Ellen. I discovered for the first time that she also had a favorite stuffed animal that had tragically disappeared during a family outing. Friends often remark about how the two of us couldn’t be less alike, a seemingly clear example of opposites attracting. Now we knew that growing up, we both had a lost our “monkey.” Loss affects all of us differently. In first grade, Mary Ellen was number one in her class.
I needed to make amends for my error in judgment. I created a sign that said:
I AM LOOKING FOR THE LITTLE BOY OR GIRL WHO LOST ME
I returned to the approximate location where I found Woody, placed him up against a nearby tree and affixed the message above his head (you can see a photo of this on my Facebook page).
I’m not optimistic that Woody will find his owner. But it was important that I attempt to facilitate a possible reunion. I hope that will make up for the mistake I made. That’s my Toy Story, and I’m sticking to it.
Dick Wolfsie has been a reporter for WISH-TV in Indianapolis the past 30 years. His columns appear in 30 Indiana newspapers and he can be heard each weekend on public radio stations across the state. He is a resident of Indianapolis. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.