Show and Tell: The Sock-Puppet

I will never forget the anguish I put my mother through as a child. So many dreams. Dreams that are memories now and also pain mixed up with love and a desire to let them be known.

I remember the sock-puppet for show and tell. It was a cloudy afternoon when the dim orange lighting of the kitchen washed over the peeling walls 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.

As night encroached I didn’t know if we would make it. All I could feel was my heart pouncing as time managed to swerve right above our every angle and motion.

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 warehouse 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 even managed to prepare dinner for us to curl into the evening with our bellies full.

All that dawned on me was my show and tell. The sock puppet needed to be real, and to come alive like the ones on Mr. Rogers’s. I needed to be able to hold my puppet, and to tell its story like an expert.

So I went back and forth between the kitchen and the living room checking 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, in one of the earliest instances of a lifetime of last minute races against time and everything that seemed possible that I’d embark on with her. 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 our heads as we scrambled to meet them with our best minds.

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 feeling at once that it wasn’t like what I expected.

Made purely of black yarn, it didn’t look like the sock-puppets 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. At least, not in the seamless way that appeared to be most right.

What’s more, our 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. I then 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 the face I would forge on the sheet then, because it was the most natural face that came to mind in that moment; the only one in the entire galaxy that I could draw with some ease. After cutting out the circle of paper that we’d glue onto the figure’s circular-shaped head, I gave the sock-puppet curious wide eyes, brimming bright eyelashes, a roundish nose with just a small lumping tip at the end, and a set of large, wise lips. It was the face of my mom.

Even if the figure wasn’t quite what I expected then, I would still have something to show for show and tell. And my mom’s face before my anxieties–just as her hands motioning through the darkness of the night to still save the day–would remain with my memory through a lifetime; every dream come true for me now is only an extension of everything possible through the tiny sock-puppet with her eyes.

J.T.

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J.T.

Born and raised in the Los. Los Cuentos. J.T.

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