I once had a love affair with socks. Striped socks, colored socks, socks with patterns and puppies and poofs. I requested socks for Christmas and birthdays, assuring my family that yes, I really did want socks, but more often than not I was disappointed and received books and electronics instead. One year I finally received an entire box of them, and I jumped up and down squealing “Socks, socks, I got socks!” thoroughly exciting my mother’s dog Soxx in the process.
When I moved to Hawaii I found myself wearing sandals almost exclusively. I’m not a fancy shoe person despite my love of decorative socks, and sandals were the shoes that made the most sense. In the tropical weather you didn’t need sneakers or boots to keep your toes warm, but then there is also the fact that in Hawaii it is very common to be asked to leave your shoes at the door. (“Shoes,” my uncle would say when I’d come to visit, “Shoes! Shoes!” until I realized he meant I should take them off.) The cultural aspect traces to the Asian custom of removing your shoes at the threshold, but it’s really rather practical– after you’ve been tromping through the dirt and mud, who wants to be tracking that through the house?
So in Hawaii I stopped wearing real shoes, and thus, I stopped wearing socks. I still kept them in my drawer, the ones with the poofs, and the stripes, and the holiday prints. Sometimes if it got chilly (those 60 degree winters) I might wear a pair of socks to bed. And whenever I traveled to somewhere cold I would gather up my socks along with my lone pair of sneakers — though I’d inevitably grow weary of shoes (my feet are claustrophobic, I’d claim). And I’d tromp through the snow in my sandals, only to receive odd looks from locals and scolding from my elders.
I’ve been gone from Hawaii about five months now, long enough that I no longer find splashings of sand among my belongings. The seasons are turning, the wind turning harsh, the skies growing stormy. In Hawaii I tromped obliviously through the puddles in my sandals, but here the water is frigid and painful. And every time I go out in the rain I say to myself, I really ought to get myself some nice boots, some galoshes. And every store I visit, I say, these boots are too expensive, these galoshes aren’t my style. So I continue about in my sandals, toes shivering in 40 degree weather, stubborn and sockless.
We find the strangest habits hard to break. But winter is coming and I am a mainlander.
I am a mainlander.
I am not fancy free on the beach, my toes in the sand. There is no surfing in October, no New Years picnics on the shore. It is cold here, and it is getting colder, and it is time to put on real shoes.
Maybe for Christmas.