I will never forget the anguish I put my mother through as a child. So many dreams. Dreams that are memories now that are also pain mixed up with love and a desire to let them be known.
I remember the sock-puppet for show and tell, and the dim orange lighting in the kitchen bouncing off the peeling walls of the apartment on a cloudy day as I begged and pleaded with mom to help me with my show and tell project.
I needed something to show. Mom worked in needles. She worked in sowing, in making something out of nothing but a string of yarn. She agreed to help me then, making my anguish into her anguish as the hours seemed to trap both of us in their midst. It was still early in the afternoon when I sidetracked her with my last minute request, and we could take the whole evening if need be, but the next day still loomed like the clouds through the windowpanes, into our souls and slowly more coldly.
I didn’t know if we would make it. All I could feel was my heart pouncing as the time seemed to swerve right above our heads. Mom kept her personal sowing machine in the kitchen, and it didn’t dawn on me that she did so because that’s where she could get more work done for her shift at the garment factory downtown the next morning. It didn’t occur to me that she had already had an eight hour work-day by the time I made my request to her, and that she had already picked us up from school, and that she had also finally prepared dinner for us to curl into the evening with our bellies full.
All that dawned on me was the sock puppet. It needed to real, and to come alive like the ones on Mr. Rogers’s. I needed to be able to hold it, and it had to tell a story. So I went back and forth between the kitchen and the living room checking up on mom and her hands at work, keeping an eye on her angles as she shaped the dimensions of the puppet underneath the magic needle. She gave life to my dream on that day, which was also my pain, and though I could have no idea that afternoon, it was only the first of a lifetime of last minute races against time and everything that seemed possible which I’d embark on with my mom. We would share anguish over each other and one another’s fates through the course of many years in this manner. Years which would also seem to dash just above the tip of our heads as we scrambled to meet them with our best hands.
Before late into the night, mom stretched the hands and legs of the tiny sock-puppet before my eyes. I remember looking at it in that moment, as if to look into the depths of imagination itself, and how at once it wasn’t like what I expected. Made purely of black yarn, it didn’t look like the sockpuppets from Mr. Rogers’s. And it barely fit through my hands. I also couldn’t move the legs if my fingers were placed through the puppets’ hands, and likewise couldn’t move its hands if my fingers were placed through its legs.
Moreover, the sock-puppet had no face. It was just the figure of a body, but it had no personality.
I barely mustered a thank you to mom before taking it from her hands then, as I figured that I could maybe still make it work, if only I gave it some eyes and some lips and a nose. So I retreated into the living room with the soft garment in my hands, placed the puppet’s body down on the plastic table where my brother and I did our homework, took some scratch paper out of my backpack, and set out to give the tiny figure its rightful personality.
I won’t ever forget its face, because it was the most natural face that came to mind in that moment; the only one in the entire galaxy that I could count on. After cutting out the circle of paper that we’d glue onto the figure’s circular head, I gave the sockpuppet curious wide eyes, brimming bright eyelashes, a roundish nose with a curling tip at the end, and a set of big, wonderful lips. It was the face of my mom.
In the course of those few hours our anguish would come to an end. We were going to make it through the night and into that next day. Now, in the next race against the world and everything that seems possible, we will do just so once again.