What will happen when I gather the embroidery floss and start the improvisation of face? Will the right face emerge? (Will it be a good face?)
Can I trust the process of emerging, and my memories, to sustain me as I create this monkey’s face? How can these stitches possibly hold enough love?
In the early 1990s, a friend told me the story of how her parents took away her toys too soon. She was maybe ten years old. She hadn’t been done with them. In particular, she pined for her sock monkey, floppy and enchanting, dependable…its disposal was one stretch of her stolen childhood she had never forgotten.
I decided to make her a new sock monkey.
Since then, I’ve made a lot of sock monkeys for adults. Using Red Heel socks I stitch by hand, and watch each monkey emerge. Lumpish and lovable. With each monkey, I have tried to echo something of the recipient’s aesthetic, or some piece of his or her life…each monkey means something specific.
Making monkeys for babies is more difficult. Not knowing the future person who will cling to that monkey, I can only presume the child will be, in some way, like its parents. But even if I have touched the mother’s full belly, there’s no crystalline detail to play with while creating the monkey’s face. For babies, I attempt a face that will amuse and delight: a curlicue of bliss, or humor, but most importantly, a friendly face.
I saw something today in this monkey’s blank, blind face. This monkey is for the baby of a friend I have not seen in several years. I think the child will need a lot of support and love, and I can only do that from afar. How can I convey this in cotton, thread, and stuffing? How can I pour into the small stitches all these complicated wishes?