My son told me last week that they were finishing up a project in Art class. He said that his was a monkey with baby monkeys stacked on it, and that the project was based off of the Navajo Storyteller. I think I screamed with excitement!

Twenty years ago when I lived in Arizona, my friends and I took a road trip. During our time in Sedona, I came across a vendor who had a number of Navajo Storyteller dolls. When I read about them, I instantly thought of my Grandma M., and I bought one for her.

While Grandma was in the hospital at the end of her life 3 years later, I wrote a story for her. It was about a woman who married a man and raised a family. She loved her family, loved her community, and became her town’s librarian, where she became a storyteller to all of the children. The story was, of course, about my grandma. My grandma was the librarian in Brooklyn, Iowa. When we were little kids and visited family in Brooklyn (it was long-distance from my hometown, Grinnell), I would call the dial-a-story phone line and listen to the recording of my grandma reading a children’s book. We would also visit her at the library sometimes and she would let us check out books even though we didn’t have a Brooklyn library card! What a cool grandma I had!

I don’t know if my grandma ever got to read the story I wrote her when she was alive, but it was read during her funeral soon thereafter. And I would continue to look at the Storyteller doll I had given her, sitting on the sunroom mantle every time we visited Grandpa M., until he passed a year and a half ago. And then the doll returned to me.

When my son came home to tell me about his artwork, I couldn’t pour the story out fast enough, or retrieve this little gift fast enough to relay to him how special this project was! The other significant part is that when I was pregnant with him, I called him my “tummy monkey,” and his nursery had a monkey theme.

He brought his sweet Storyteller home last week and got to painting it, modeled after the monkey nutcracker I bought the winter I was pregnant with him. (Nutcrackers have their own story of significance here!)

I love this thread of connection – my grandma, my monkey, and me.