Howard was a sock monkey.
My sock monkey.
And when I went on a trip to Florida in 1998, he decided to jump ship.
Made from scratch and lovingly sewed by my mom as a Valentine’s Day gift when I was small (at right), Howard was the beloved brother of Harold — my sister’s sock monkey — and we were rarely apart. When we went to Miami and I got a horrendous sunburn (born of my own stupidity, yes), I wasn’t in my right mind. And somewhere in my overheated delirium, my beloved friend slipped away.
The picture below, snapped on a Florida balcony, is the very last time photo I have of Howard. (Please pay no attention to my terrible hair, Hanson hat and smug, sunburned smile. I was 12.) Though I considered splashing it on milk cartons across the nation, I never quite had the opportunity.
And Howard, in all his self-absorbed craziness, never bothered to send me a postcard from his new digs in South Beach.
Last week, I wrote a column for the newspapers where I work detailing my sock monkey’s abrupt disappearance from my life — and how, in the aftermath, I tend to see sock monkeys everywhere. I love them, of course — so much so that I bought one for Spencer and he got one for me for my birthday! I see sock monkeys on calendars, in commercials, on book covers. They’re everywhere.
In my column I talked about the summers Howard spent with Katie and me at my grandparents’ home, and how my mom re-glued his eyes and tied him a Valentine’s bow. I also expressed my displeasure that he wouldn’t even bother to call his own brother and let him know where he was headed . . . I mean, he and Harold are flesh and sock.
Well, the Saga of Howard was a big hit. Coworkers, friends, family and readers have emailed, called and popped in to inquire about my runaway monkey.
And yesterday? Yesterday, I got an anonymous letter in the mail.
Kelly popped into my office with a plain white envelope. My name was written in careful script across the front and, in lieu of any return address, “Howard The Sock Monkey” sat in the corner. Inside was a single sheet of white paper with these typed words:
My Dearest Meg,
Hello, from Howard, your long-lost sock friend.
I’m sorry for the greetings I failed to send . . .
But do not fear, my life is good
Having so much fun that I thought I never could!
You see, Harold often cramped my style and stole the spotlight —
And to be quite honest, we often partook in sock fights!
But I so enjoyed Florida and visits to Grandma
Truly reveling in the many things I saw!
I hid in El Paso Hotel, for there was more I wanted to see . . .
But I regret the pain I caused of your missing me.
I’ll never forget my very best friend
Or your Mom’s love for my life and the many sewing mends.
Never forget — you were the best —
Hey, tell me, is Harold still a sock monkey pest?
From my calendar photos I’m doing well, as you can see —
They’ll forever keep memories alive for you, Meg,
From Howard, your ‘lil sock monkey.
I’m not going to lie to you guys — I’m pretty sure this is the coolest thing ever.
As soon as I was done reading the poem aloud to my coworkers, I sat in shocked silence. I mean, wow. My sister was the next one to hearing my rousing rendition of the verse, and by then I practically had the whole thing memorized. Spencer read it. My dad heard it while making pancakes. I’m emailing it to my mom, and reading it to my grandmother at lunch today.
It’s postmarked from Southern Maryland, where my column runs twice a week, but I know the truth: Howard is really out there.
And his writing skills have dramatically improved from when he was helping me with my seventh-grade English essays.