Whether you love, loathe, or are indifferent to sock monkeys, I want to tell you a story about how I think my family may be responsible for its present ubiquitousness.
Once upon a time, say 50 years ago, most people had never seen a sock monkey: in a toy store, on a calendar, in a child’s arms. When my son was born, I imagined him someday, when he was a toddler, carrying around a cute stuffed animal or maybe a small, soft blanket. I never dreamed he’d be going off to college in 18 years with a baboon in his knapsack.
Let me start at the beginning. After he’d accidentally thrown my teddy bear (that I was sharing) out the car window onto the Pennsylvania Turnpike, my Aunt Katy gave Lance a primate made of gray socks with red heels, that, when someone followed a pattern, conveniently fit where the animal’s mouth and butt were. I think Aunt Katy got the socks and pattern from the Sears catalog. She stuffed the toy with remnants of old nylon stockings.
Because she was my godmother and made it herself, I accepted it gracefully, without saying that it was the ugliest thing I’d ever seen. For some reason, despite the red butt, no one but me seemed to think it was a baboon, so it became, in our house, simply “monkey” — until, after listening to my recording of “Man of La Mancha,” Lance named it monkey hoe-tee (as in Don Quixote; his stuffed donkey was donkey hoe-tee). This is what happens in a child’s literal mind when he hears a record instead of seeing a video.
Lance eventually accumulated many stuffed toys, but monkey hoe-tee was the love of his life and went everywhere with us: in the car, on the train, in airplanes, from Navy bases in California and Greece, finally here to Massachusetts.