I don’t remember quite when I inherited the bag of socks, just that I did.
It is a big bag of socks that sits in its own section of my wardrobe. The socks were given to me by my granddad. He was forced to get rid of all of his old favourites, gathered over decades, because they now pinched his swollen ankles – not a pleasant feeling.
Like all of the men in my family, he couldn’t bear to get rid of something that he loved. He had to think of a way around that harsh ripping sensation of parting with a possession that he covets more than he ever should.
It went down like a hostage-cash exchange. My family had been distracted by doughnuts, carefully presented by my granddad – the perfect diversion. The sugar-crust sparkling like silver in the afternoon sun. I felt a sharp kick under the table and then a carrier bag was thrust onto my lap. I put the bag up my T-shirt a la pregnant man-child and ran up the stairs, waddling, to hide the bag.
Ever since, I have been plucking a new-to-me pair of socks from the bag on those mornings when motivation is lacking, when waking is a little more difficult. The socks are wonderful, as much as socks can ever be wonderful. They are often brown with Cubist patterns flanking their sides, like foot-shaped pieces of 1970s’ wallpaper.
The beauty of these socks, and in some sense the sadness, is enhanced by the fact that I can only wear them once. The difference in the shape of our feet, mine and my granddad’s, his plump and cushioned, mine angular and bony, means that any weaknesses in the old fabric finally give way within 16 hours under the stresses of unfamiliar contours.
These socks are not washed, not recycled, they are scrunched into a ball and thrown in with the rubbish. It is like a Chinese lantern, a flurry of snow, a baby laughing – a moment that can’t last, but is dazzling whilst it does.