I've always been one of those people who can't walk into a pet shop (okay, so those went the way of the dinosaurs for the most part, and even though those faceless corporate pet supermarkets are a poor substitute, it's pretty much all we have nowadays) and think, "I want one of those, and those, and those." I do it every time I go. But it was my grandmother who had the "cool-animal-gotta-have-it-affliction" worse than I have ever had.
I remember when I was really little back in the 60's, back when pet shops had some of the most amazing offerings you could imagine. You know, all those fun animals that are now endangered, or protected or just plain dangerous, that you used to be able to take home with you without needing to know a damn thing about how to care for it, or how to protect yourself and your loved ones? Every breed of monkey known to man and a few chimpanzees as well, baby alligators and crocodiles, even a few really exotic animals, like wallabees and koalas, and even the coati mundi my grandmother bought for me on one of my earlier birthdays. Lest you mistakenly think that I had to be the coolest kid in my neighborhood, let me assure you, I never even got to touch the furry little thing. Nope, not even for a minute. In fact, I never even got the thing out of its cage, let alone out of the shop.
My mother, grandmother and I had been out shopping when we stopped in a pet shop in, I believe, Braintree. My mother is of the belief that we had just previously eaten lunch and my grandmother, who was by no means a heavyweight when it came to drinking, probably had had a couple and thus had gotten the idea to buy me the most unusual gift going. I remember my grandmother and I walking around the shop looking at the tiny spider monkeys while my mother went off alone to admire god only knows what, since she really has never been much of an animal person save for cats. It was then that my grandma and I saw the baby coati mundi and as I was immediately taken with its adorable stripey tail and pointy snout, she whipped out her checkbook and promptly bought the thing for me. I must have then run and found my mother and lead her to the cage where my gift was being removed for transport home.
I don't remember the actual act of finding my mother, but I very clearly remember her scream upon standing before the cage that contained the coati and being told that it belonged to me. She said, "There is no way that thing is coming home with us. I will not have anything that nasty climbing up my cabinets and all over my furniture. Who knows what diseases this thing carries (although given the plethora of weird animals in pet stores at that time, I don't think potential disease was ever really an issue until much later). You absolutely can not have this." And then she turned to my grandmother and said, "Miriam, get your money back right now." My grandmother and I were both very disappointed, but my mother's word was final (and really kinda scary).
I was very sad to not have been able to have it live with us, especially since learning that among other things, the coati mundi is an extremely vocal animal with a lot of "snorts, grunts, screams, whines and chatters." Frankly, owning a coati mundi would have rocked, regardless of what my mother thought. And one final thought: I have absolutely no memory of what my grandmother ended up getting me for that birthday. It certainly wasn't as cool as her first gift to me that year.