Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Grandpa's Socks

 Let me set the scene for you: It's the first day of autumn in the colorful Midwest. Trees are just faintly showing traces of the splendor to come. The wind is blowing the smell of dry grass and apples around. The cornstalks shimmy against each other in the breeze making that 'dry bones crackle' noise. It's warm still. The kind of sunset-glow-warm that summer gets as it fades to fall. Warm enough still to wear tennis shoes and no jacket. Warm enough to have ankle socks on.

Enter: Grandma's house. Your face is rosy cheeked from the wind, not the cold. You have no sniffle of the nose from the slight chill. You are the picture of comfort and contentment. You pop your shoes off in anticipation of some cold apple cider and a doughnut. Skating carelessly across the linoleum in your ankle socks, you hear a gasp.

"Why...CAROLYN!! You aren't wearing any socks!!!"

Grandpa stares wide-eyed at your "bare" feet as you pivot to face him.

"I've got socks on, Grandpa."

-insert indignant 'hrumph' here-

"They are socks, Grandpa!!"

"You are going to catch a cold."


"It's nearly winter."

(It's August 1st.)

"I'm fine. I swear."

"I'm getting you some socks."


Grandma gives you a knowing, 'let him go' eyeroll and gets you some cider. Grandpa returns with a pair of his plush, deep-woods, electric orange-topped hunting socks.

"THESE are socks. Put them on."

"Okay Grandpa."

"Isn't that better??"

"Yes, much better. Yes. Thank you."

He smiles, shakes his head, and retreats to His Chair to watch the news again.

How many times has that scene, or a variation of played out in my Grandma's kitchen? Countless. My cousins, my sister, my friends, even vague acquaintances have had "real socks" lovingly but forcefully applied to their 'bare' tootsies time after time. My Grandpa is very adamant about the virtue of socks. I do not disagree that socks are lovely, in fact, I probably wear socks more frequently than most of my relatives (sparing Grandpa, Sock Police Chief). But there is just something so touching about Grandpa forcing you into a pair of his socks in the dead of summer. Something that says, "I am incredibly stubborn about how much I care about the warmth of your feet." It's silly. It's sweet. I love it. I just do.

Since learning to knit I knew it was required that I make Grandpa a pair of real wool soldier's socks. Months ago I finally set to it: picking a pattern, researching Civil War era socks, learning magic loop, and, at last, knitting them.

I didn't finish them in time for Christmas, but I'm almost happy that I gave them to him late. They weren't lost in the shuffle of other gifts. We were able to have a special moment. Last weekend I stopped over to his house. I had just grafted the toes that morning. My heart always fills when I get to bring my son over to see his Greats, but that day it was about to burst with anticipation of giving the gift of warm socks.

How many pairs of his was I instructed to take home over the years? How many times was I chided for going bare footed? I contemplated those things with each stitch. Delighting in the simplicity of the pattern and awaiting the joy of handing them over to him. When I finally did, the reaction did not disappoint.

"You MADE these!!!"

"Yes. I did."

"And they are...are they? Real? Wool?"


"Well I-" he stood to pull his slippers off, "I gotta put them on!!"

Later that night he called me to tell me he was still wearing them. "If you've got warm feet, your whole body is warm!!" He said they were the best socks he's ever worn. Allow my to have a moment to recollect myself. 

"You gotta make yourself some!! So your feet are warm. You need some of these. You do!!"

 This is why I knit and crochet. To be able to return a favor done to me over so many years. To show care, compassion, and just...that heart thudding stupid-smile-on-your-face feeling of giving someone something you made and having them feel so blessed by it. When it happens, it's so real. So perfect.

I am so happy that I got these done and didn't wait for next week, next month, next year. It would have been horrible to procrastinate on these socks and have Grandpa never be able to enjoy them. Share handmade love while you still have time: don't regret that unfinished object.

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