I want to keep my grandmother’s socks. They are worn-out, tinged and tattered. Her name, “D. Addison,” is written on each one in a black marker by the nursing staff, permanent so it wouldn’t come out in the wash. This is why I want to keep them, and sometimes why I wear them even though they do nothing for my feet.
This is, in fact, why we hold onto so much, and why sometimes it is OK to hold on, just a little longer. The socks serve as a reminder of her, a small thing that makes me smile. One day I’ll throw them in the bin with the rest of the stuff I give away, almost religiously- for my home is my sanctuary and my sanctuary is simple, clear, functional space.
I clear space for life to happen. Shed the material mess that can accumulate so we have more room to laugh and cry and BE.
My grandmother was a woman trapped within herself. In the hours before she died all night I read to her, I said her name again and again. “Dorothy Louise, I am taking to you,” I said, appealing to that fundamental core I knew existed beneath all the layers of hurt and shame and protection from the world that had been cruel to her. Beneath the mess she had been unable to clear.
She never regained consciousness but I held her as she died in the late morning and I felt her move through me. I saw her eyes open wide one final time as she stared into something not of this realm.
I knew that part of her became part of me that day, so perhaps I do not need these tattered socks as reminders, for I also see her when I look into my daughter’s face, I feel her spirit when I smell cardamom, and a share her love of a specific shade of the colour blue.
My son has eyes that sometimes look like hers. His name, though the usual story I tell is without all of the underlying significance, was born of longing and fulfilment, of sadness, hope and home.
It seems strange that I might include sadness and longing in the story, for he is just a little baby who smiles at his mama at every chance he gets. But in his name is truth, is God, is human resilience. And the truth is that he will experience, as we all do, beauty and pain, hope and suffering, over and over again within this short life.
It is important not to hold onto the regrets and the failures and the anger and disappointments, but to remember it all. Our memories contain us and all the ones we love within them. Truly, I do not need these socks. I keep them because “…as the old go walking into the night, we lose our sense of time’s extension, we lose our witnesses, our living memories. We lose them and we lose the farthest reaches of ourselves.” (p 186 The Blue Jay’s Dance, Erdrich)
And maybe sometimes we must hold on to socks as we learn to let go, once again.