Sock monkey "a hit" with Czech class


I'd never heard of one until I met a girl who brought one back from the US: a sock monkey - literally a little monkey made from a long woolen-like (actually polyester) sock - not to be mistaken with the sock puppet you stretch over your hand. I ended up marrying - not the monkey, but his pretty owner, and when she came along, well, so did he, soon becoming a presence around the house. Each Christmas, we've stuck a little Czech wool hat on his head. That's right, it's Christmas again, he has it on right now. Over there on the couch. Other than wearing the hat once a year, he hasn't done much - ever really - other than lounging around. That's how things were, until this fall. Then, everything changed.

You see, it was then that this lone American sock monkey in Prague entered a classroom for the first time. Grade 3, a school in Prague 6 to be exact. My wife, who is an English teacher, took him there on a whim. What she triggered, was an avalanche. Overnight, the sock monkey - who doesn't have a name - became an ambassador for the English language. He doesn't talk, he shows, and the children love him to bits. Either the teacher uses him to teach instructions, like "sit down" or "stand up", or the kids do it themselves, that's what they adore the most. Getting up and going to the board, respectfully picking up the monkey and using the little guy to tell the others what to do. In English, of course. Children see what "monkey do", then they do what the monkey does.

Given that it's Christmas soon, what will all this mean? Confusion, I expect. Every other household here will be asking for all the usual things: traditional Czech children's toys like Krtecek, the famous Czech mole, or the characters Juuu and Hele, or at least Bob and Bobek (two loveable magician's rabbits). By comparison, a tiny, tiny fraction of Prague 6 will be writing for something nobody here has ever heard of. In short, a kind of sock.

And, you can bet they will be. At the school, for example, when the sock monkey's not in - it's called 'whining', enough to rattle even the most patient teacher's nerves. It's not like the children haven't been introduced to a dozen other characters since.

Already I can imagine parents' baffled expressions at Christmas when they realise belatedly they should have ordered their very own sock monkey from the USA months and months ago...

If only it ended there. Another consequence of all this, is that the monkey has now spilled over into my life. Oh sure, I'll explain to the boss I was late because I was drawing a sock monkey for my wife's class. Leave it to me to tell him I borrowed the digital camera not for an assignment, but to show parents that "Yes, Virginia, there is a sock monkey after all".

Still, I suppose in the long run I shouldn't complain. With this one little character's help, the kids at my wife's school have learnt to say more things in less time they'd never thought of saying before but which they want to now. We can be happy. It's not just "Give me sock monkey!", either. I mean stuff like, hello, please, I like strawberries, it's nice out, and much, much more.

If I were to bet any amount of money on it now, I'd say the expression "Merry Christmas" was probably next. But, I'll have to ask the sock monkey himself. Over there, when he has a moment not just lounging around on the couch.