July 22, 2017

The Gift of Socks

By Caroline Taylor

For years, the idea of a man (or boy) receiving socks as a Christmas gift has conjured up images of fake smiles, eye rolling, gestures of throwing the socks over one’s shoulder to quickly move on to the next gift, and even laughter (Really? You got me socks???) Socks are something grandmas give to their grown sons when they come to visit (just to make sure their wives are not making their precious sons walk around with the dreaded holes in the toes), or wives give to their husbands when they need a stocking filler other than chocolate or nuts. They are an afterthought, a space filler, a necessity in life, and let’s face it…boring! As adults, we have lived years with the common knowledge regarding the doomed fate of being the dreaded “sock giver,” but apparently, this Christmas, my thirteen year old son did not get the memo.

 

The other day my neighbor asked my son if he could be dropped off at the mall for a couple of hours with her son, since she had an appointment in the area and they both wanted to walk around, shop, and go to the food court by themselves (a big thrill for two 13 years olds). My son was up the stairs like a flash, rummaging through his drawers and bank to scrounge up as much money as he could find. I never asked him if he needed more, and assumed he would buy himself some small trinket and possibly indulge himself in a soft pretzel and a lemonade, two of his favorite mall foods. Secretly, I always wondered if it was more about the cute lemonade girls in the tight yellow shorts and tall striped hats?

 

When my son returned from the mall that evening, he was excited, and could not wait to show me what he purchased. “Did you buy something for yourself,” I asked.

 

He looked at me with shock and said, “Mom, it’s CHRISTMAS. Of course not, I only bought something for you and Dad….oh, and a pretzel.”

 

Next, he opened his bag to produce the fruits of his two laborious hours of shopping at the mall. I could not imagine what he had bought for his dad, the practical man who seemingly has everything. When he showed me the gift, my response was instinctive, conditioned by years of “bad gift giving” jokes, and early memories of when I first met my husband and found (hidden in his closet) an entire garbage bag stuffed full of brand new tube socks rolled up and ready to wear. My shock and horror were not exactly placated by his explanation-he simply hated to do laundry, especially folding socks, so when his socks got dirty, he simply threw them away and bought new ones. I was mystified by this on many different levels, but accepted this sock hoarding as a small price to pay in our strong and lasting relationship.

 

As my son stood proudly holding the package of six pairs of black tube socks, wrapped tightly by a fat cardboard band, as if trying to escape their fate, I smiled, laughed (just a little) and said, “You got him socks?” It was actually more of a giggle and not intentionally cruel, but nonetheless, the damage was done. His face was crushed, tears formed, and he insisted I was laughing at the present.

 

“You don’t think Dad will like the socks? He’s always saying that we steal his socks from the laundry and he always needs them.”

 

I envisioned my husband’s dresser drawer, bulging with black tube socks, white tube socks, running socks, soccer socks, dress socks, and more, all vying for more space in the overcrowded drawer. I smiled, trying quickly to recover and think of something redeeming to say, “I am not laughing at you, I just think it’s very sweet that you recognize that dad is a “sock guy” and he does LOVE socks. You picked the perfect present!”

 

After a few more minutes of my convincing my son how much his dad loves socks, he slowly cheered up, and I immediately reflected upon what just happened. My thirteen year old just took all of the money he had earned throughout the year and spent two hours at a mall shopping for my husband and myself, not even considering buying a gift for himself. He felt true joy in thinking about others before himself, and reminded me that the true spirit of Christmas is alive in all of us, whether we choose to work at a shelter, donate toys to tots, serve a meal to the homeless, or collect socks for Hands for Hope (and my son has done most of these things, and truly enjoys doing them). The lesson learned is that giving is the most important thing we can do for each other as human beings…even if that gift happens to be socks. Merry Christmas!

 

Caroline Taylor is a stay-at-home mom of 3 boys.

 

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