My Christmas sock collection, most of it. Top row pairs. Bottom row singles.
It's a mystery. Where did the mates go? I know I wore three of the bottom-row residents not long ago--IN PAIRS. Did my only-recently-former washing machine eat them? And is that why the washer quit expelling water and we had to forge a new washer relationship only four years into what I'd thought was a life-long commitment?
I've worn holiday socks since looong before I turned silver. A rebellion thing, probably. Fourteen Decembers ago when I went to the hospital Monday-Friday every week to burn out wayward breast cancer cells, I wore a different pair every day. Rebellion against cold halls and green paper gowns; pain and fear and fatigue.
It worked too. You have to smile at sparkly Christmas cats at your toes. And remember life beyond fear and exhaustion.
I didn't think anyone else saw them. Until the day I huddled on a hard plastic chair in a gray hall, trying to hold the flimsy gown closed while I waited for the radiologist.
I kept my eyes on the floor until the wheels of a gurney rolled past and stopped beside me. When I looked up, a young girl lay still under a blanket, her eyes slits in the white moon of her face.
She glanced at me. I smiled. Her gaze shifted downward. I didn't know what kind of cancer she had but I knew it was bad. And her treatment as hard as the disease. I understood why she looked away. When life is the edge of death, you don't waste energy on small talk and questions from strangers.
She looked up into my eyes then and smiled. "Nice socks."
Copyright 2009-2010 Kathleen Scott, for Hill Country Mysteries. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.