So What´s Up with the Sock Monkey?

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"So  what´s up with the sock monkey?"  I get asked this from time and again, so here´s my story and I'm sticking to it.

When I think about my fondest childhood memories, I think of my sock monkey "Grape E. Good."  She reminds me of those magical moments and adventures that helped shape who I am today.  My sister Kay and I grew up in Northern California in the 1960s, on the Salmon River in a bend in the road called Cecilville. We enjoyed a simple childhood in this rural community where most homes had no electricity or running water. The population averaged 35 and isn't much larger today. The town was  so small that the school district needed a teacher with two or more children because the law required at least seven to keep school open. My sister and I were considered real assets to the survival of the school when my mother was hired as the sole teacher. Unfortunately, the little white one-room school closed in the late '60s.    

Cecilville school. Me on the far left (grade 3). Mom in the middle. My sis not pictured.

Of the scattered cabins in the region, only eight had phones  (the old wooden crank type) that all belonged to the forest service and would ring simultaneously in each home. To distinguish whom the call was for, there were eight different combinations of short and long rings. This was the original party line and most people possessing a phone listened to all conversations.  

And there we are again for the annual school foto inside the classroom. I still remember eating that peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Not much happened in Cecilville.  One afternoon, Kay and I returned to the two-room cabin we called home to find our mother making magic. With the humming of the sewing machine and the air thick with kapok fluff dust, I knew something exciting was brewing.

With my chin in my hands, I sat mesmerized, watching my mother create the first monkey from a pair of socks. Kay, being the older sibling, claimed this chimp naming it "Chumpertina Lynn." As I helped polish off the final stitches of the tail and then the button eyes, I christened the second one "Grape Elizabeth Good." I then scrambled through an old box and found a little purple dress for her.

We not only dressed these monkeys, but also gave them voice. Grape and Chump became major Attractions for friends and family. Chimp chatter included general conversation, storytelling, adventure, music and dance.

More than just toys, they represented the impish chimp-like quality in all of us. Without TV, radio or cell phones, our creative fantasies were vital for our entertainment. These sock critters ignited that inspirational spark that allows imagination to create the impossible. From that rural village, I was able to dream and stretch my vision beyond the river borders to a grander world that called to me. To this day, I am still living out those adventures.  

Mother on left, father holding Miss Grape E. and what is that car in the background?

My mother was high functioning Asperger's but we didn´t know it then. She was brilliant, creative, fun and a fabulous teacher but the minute the bell rang at 3:00 she withdrew to her own world because being a mother just wasn’t in her skill set.  My father who lived in Southern California as a real estate developer had his own issues to communicate with us.    What I did find was that the monkeys bridged that gap with both of them.  When I would say at dinner time “mom I am hungry”, not much happened but when little Miss Grape E. said (in her voice) “Jubles, I am hungry”, the response was quickly  “Lets get you something to eat” as she scurried off to do so.  Go figure, it was a creative work around that got the job done.  

Grape in Portugal in search of our retirement home.

I found where ever I went out into the world if I had Grape, the impossible could be conquered.  Now we all know she is just a pair of socks with stuffing and personality but I developed the ability to reach out into that field of pure potentiality at any given moment and create the magic needed to get the job done.  Even when I left the river and went to live in foster homes to go to high school, the ability stayed with me even though Miss Grape E. wasn’t there.  

My childhood challenges fused with "Sock Monkey Magic" helped me to develop the mental muscle to do so many things in my life others wouldn’t dare to do.  

So what is this intangible piece that starts with vision and is empowered with belief?  Deepak Chopra speaks about it in his best selling book 7 Spiritual Laws of Success. It is a very short book I have read over the past 25 years with my husband Mark.  Taking just a few minutes each morning and reading about one of the principals, The first one is The Law of Pure Potentiality  

When we are born, our brains are much like a field of fresh fallen snow waiting for the foot prints of our personal belief systems to be printed on.  We develop pathways for language, music, paradigms, religion, and how we solve problems. Until our final breath, we have the ability to keep developing those pathways.  It comes with daily practice and effort.  It is never too late to restart.  

Old rules:  Others tell me what I can do and be.

New Rules:  I am limited only by my imagination and vision and my vision is forever expanding.

Over the past five and a half decades, I have given life to more than 250 sock monkeys, dispatching them throughout the world to create their magic. They live in Germany, Switzerland, Japan, Mexico, the U.S. and beyond.   In addition, I have taught others to make the magic.  Just one story is from a lovely young lady who I taught to make one in May of 2010.  Emily Neidermyer was diagnosed with MS as a teen ager shorty after I met her.  

Quoted by Emily "I then went on to make about 300 of the traditional sock monkeys, and sell them as a fundraiser for the MS Society. On June 30, 2015, I made Oscar. Around December of the same year, I started getting requests for Oscar to visit people living with MS. However, I worried I wouldn't get him back, so decided to make "Oscar's Buddies," which are a smaller version of Oscar. We dye the socks ourselves, then sit down and sew, and sew, and sew! I taught my family different sections of creating Oscar's Buddies. Some are good at stuffing, some are good at flipping the socks, some are good at adding faces, etc. Overall, it has become a family effort to make all of Oscar's Buddies. Mostly, it is me and my mom, with some help from others. Since December of 2015, we have made and sent nearly 700 of Oscar's Buddies. They are located in nearly every state, and in 8 different countries!"  Thank you Emily and Oscar for making a difference.

They are a part of my mother and grandmother that I have given to current and future generations.

With all the challenges we are facing today, I find it helpful to have a few soco simians on my desk. They help me reach back into the simple life my grandparents pioneered during the great depression. They remind me to dream, to believe that all things are possible and not to take my daily tribulations so seriously.

Across America, many old "chimps" loiter about, inhabiting attics or storage boxes that represent lost  hopes and dreams. If you encounter them, please get them out, dust them off and allow them to  disperse their timeless magic.  If you can’t care for them, there is a Sock Monkey Museum in Illinois just waiting to adopt them. see link below

It´s Grape E. Good..........  It´s Sock Monkey Magic.....

I like to include a piece of music that recaps the article.  Enjoy Aileen and Elkin Thomas which takes me back to those childhood days.... and may your "Journey be all the time"..

To order the 7 Spirtiual Laws of Success  by Deepak Chopra click here.    May you have something you read that unhooks you from the daily trauma and connects you to the pool of pure potentiality wherein we find the magic.

Note how tattered this book is after 25 years of being in my dinning room for morning tea and coffee time.  

When you are traveling to Illinois, a "Must Visit" is The New Sock Monkey Museum click here

To visit the new sock monkey museum where over 100 from my family collection now abide click here