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“Mom, Leah is going to be moving to New Mexico and she is going to be leaving me here all alone! I am going to miss her so much,” Joanna complained to her mother after dinner one night. Joanna’s caring mother sympathetically replied, “I am really sorry to hear that. You know, I remember in 4th grade, my best friend moved to Colorado and I was miserable, but I came out of my shell in 5th grade and made new friends and we are still best friends right now! So, don’t worry, everything will be okay. Remember to keep writing to Leah, but try to make new friends. Friends are like stars, you can’t always see them, but you know they are there, right?” Relieved, Joanna said, “Thanks Mom, I will remember that!”
On a cool, spring morning when it was Leah’s last day in Virginia, her siblings could not wait to move to New Mexico for their dad’s new job. Everyone except Leah, that is. Leah was sad that she was going to move because she did not want to leave all her friends. She begged her parents to let her go to school to say good bye to her friends, and after a while they let her go if she promised to pack right when she got home.
As Leah happily skipped down the sidewalk, she breathed in one of her last breaths of crisp, Virginia air. She got to class and her best friend, Joanna ran up to her and with a gigantic grin from one chubby cheek to the next, exclaimed, “Leah, I’m so glad to see you, but I thought you had to pack up to leave for New Mexico!?” “Joanna, I wouldn’t stay at home and pack all day if I had this chance to be with the best friend a girl could have!,” replied Leah in her usual positive attitude.
Along with everyone else, Joanna was so pleased to get to see Leah on her last day in Virginia. The two friends talked together until the first bell rang for the classes to begin. They walked together to Joanna’s first period which was Math. Leah was very good at math and it was her best subject and Joanna’s weakest, so Leah would always help Joanna with her homework after school.
When the day was over, Leah was tired and was ready to go home, but before she did, she had to say her good-byes and fit in lots of hugs and a few tears, too. Leah would miss her normal daily routines and her secret shortcuts for walking to and from school with Joanna who lived around the block. When school was over, the girls walked back to Leah’s house, but the walk was uncommonly quiet because the two girls were deep in thought and maybe just sad that they could now only be pen pals and long-distance best friends.
A half a mile away from their houses, the girls noticed something unusual on the sidewalk. They couldn’t identify it, but they knew it was pink, and pink was both of their favorite colors. They cautiously picked it up and realized that it was some sort of stuffed animal. It looked like it had been loved for years by someone. So they dusted it off and saw that it was a monkey! They played with it for a while and fell in love with it.
The monkey was now a special memory to the girls because they would always remember Leah’s last day living in Virginia and when she made a sacrifice and went to school just to say good-bye to all her friends. Leah and Joanna took the monkey with them to Leah’s house for their normal snack and math homework time at Leah’s house after school. They fell in love with the monkey and wanted to keep it.
“Oh, Leah, you’re finally home! Are you ready to pack?” Leah’s mother yelled to her over the loud “packing music.” Leah responded, “Mom, come look at this, Joanna and I found this stuffed monkey on the sidewalk on the way home!” Leah’s mom replied, “Girls, you know you can’t keep it forever because once you find something that is not yours, you should always find its owner. As you can see, this tattered monkey was well-loved by someone. How would you like it if someone took and kept your favorite baby blanket?” Leah turned red, but understood and promised her mom that she and Joanna would try to find the monkey’s owner if she would give them thirty minutes to find the owner. Leah’s mom let them have twenty minutes to investigate the mystery.
The girls searched through the neighborhood of thick grass and daisies and eventually found a little girl crying for her monkey. They walked up to her sadly, disappointed because they were thinking they would get to keep it, and asked her if the pink monkey in Joanna’s hand was hers. The little girl’s frown turned into a huge smile and she cheerfully but shyly said, “Yes! Thank goodness you’re OK, Jo Leah!” When the little girl finally looked up at the girls, she smiled even bigger and maturely whispered, “Thank you.”
Joanna and Leah were interested in what the little girl’s name was, so they stayed and asked her. “My name is Jennaveve and this is Jo Leah,” pointing at her stuffed monkey. Jennavive added, “And what are your names?” Leah sweetly replied, “This is my best friend, Joanna and my name is Leah. Thanks for asking! We love your monkey’s name! Did you come up with it yourself?” Jennavive answered, “Actually, I named it after my grandma who just passed away two weeks ago from Cancer. My grandma and I were the best of friends and she gave this monkey to me the day before she died. My grandma’s name was Jo Leah and I loved her so much, so this is what makes me remember her joyful face. My mom is calling me in for dinner, but thank you so much for finding Jo Leah!”
The girls felt good about giving the stuffed monkey back to its owner and trudged home. They would never forget this day and would always remember Jennavive and Jo Leah.
When they got to Leah’s house they shared telling the story to Leah’s mom while packing for Leah and her family’s move to New Mexico. Once the girls mentioned that the monkey’s name was Jo Leah, Leah’s mom also realized that Jo Leah is a combination of Joanna and Leah’s names. When she said this, the girls were amazed and the monkey was now their friendship symbol and they would now sign their name with a monkey icon in their letters to each other.
The truck was filled with the family’s necessities for their move and they were all ready to go. Everyone was in the car, but Leah and Joanna were still talking face to face when they heard a sweet, little girl’s voice saying, “Good-bye.” But when the friends looked for a girl, the sidewalk was barren and there was no girl, just a voice. They would never forget this day when Leah’s last Virginia breeze flowed through Leah’s long, blond hair.