Letter to Socks

Tommorow I will have more to say, but for today here is a short story – one I wrote for a college application.


It’s a big day. Well, of course it is because if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t need you. 

7:35 am. You know I wake up later on these days, usually because I’ve spent much of the night tossing and turning, anticipating my encounter with you and the day that will soon unfold. The funny thing is you never know when I’m coming for you, but I think about you a lot.

I want to thank you for being on standby, ready to comfort me whenever I need you. I am grateful when I see you lying there, both of you, wrapped together. 

Few know you exist, few have ever seen you. But I know you help me, so of course I’m going to put you to use on every major day of my life. 

On final exam days. Before an interview with the Governor. During a TED Talk. I only call on you a few times a year. But when I do, I really, really need you. 

You’re my special socks. 

Over the years you have become threadbare, worn down by extra-heavy steps on those days I wear you out of the house. Your blue stitching. Your tiny red and gold menorahs. Your grey trim. Your hole in the big toe of the right sock. 

I have flirted with different game-day rituals. Special shirt. Special shoes. Special hat. But you, you bring my ‘A game’ because you’re important to me.

The best Hanukkah gift ever given on Christmas. 

In order to fully understand why you mean so much to me, you must meet my family and know why you are in my life. 

My mom was raised a devout Catholic. Growing up in the south suburbs of Chicago, her Sundays were spent in church. She read the Bible and prayed before every meal, like all Park Forest households.

My father was raised across town in a Jewish community in Skokie, Illinois. For all the hours my mother spent at church, my father spent at the Jewish Community Center learning different renditions of the same story.

They traveled far from home to raise me. When they landed in Portland, they left the families and religions they grew up with. God has never been a part of my life. I never went to Sunday School or took Hebrew classes. We celebrate Rosh Hashanah with the same muted devotion as Easter. 

So I knew Grandma was sending a message when she gave me menorah socks on Christmas morning. Three weeks after Hanukkah and you pop up in my stocking, a simple reminder of the role of faith in my family history. You came as a hopeful wish, sent along as an effort to convert, or more simply to remember my relatives and how far removed I am from the world my parents were raised in.

Every single day, I wear the same socks. Black athletic long stretch socks with little white Nike swooshes at the tops. But today, I need you, and the story you tell.

I put you on and I am transported to my mother’s childhood home. Around the dinner table, I sit with my grandmother as we bow our heads in silence. While I don’t understand what role God played in the gathering of the canned yams and rotisserie chicken, I admire the elegance in the way she says grace. You then fly me to my father’s family, with a Passover seder set neatly on the table. While at Passovers in Portland we debate the latest historical findings about Moses, a part of me envies the beauty of the stories taken as fact in Chicago.

I don’t know where I stand with God. So until I make up my mind, I keep you nearby, as a reminder of my heritage, careful not to lose sight of the importance of family and faith.

And either way, I will always have my socks. 

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