Sunday, December 19, 2010


Years ago, my brother went to Yosemite with his then-girlfriend and her family for Thanksgiving. It was one of her family's traditions; my parents, not being the family-traditions kind of people, had no qualms about sending their only son away for the holiday. 

That year, for Christmas, he gave me what is, to this day, the ugliest gift I've ever received. Ever. He gave me socks. It wasn't the socks themselves that were offensive. I like socks as much as the next person. These socks were heinous: thick and brown with black bears, green pine trees and (just in case I was confused) the word BEAR printed across the instep. I cannot impress upon you how ugly these socks were. I promptly put them on (over the bottoms of my velour sweatpants), and we all laughed as I opened  the less functional gift that accompanied them.

At the time I was living in the unfamiliar South where it snowed and my California-flip-flop-feet were always cold. The ugly socks quickly became my favorites. After that, the ugly socks became a joke between my brother and I. He made a few more trips to Yosemite with then-girlfriend and her family. Each time, he returned bearing a new pair of socks for me, the thickest and ugliest he could find. I always accepted them gladly and exclaimed over their ugliness (as if ugly was a virtue) and immediately put them on, weather appropriate or not. 

No matter how hard he looked, he could never out-ugly the original pair of ugly socks.

I still have all of the ugly socks. Its a small miracle that the collection has survived so many moves fully intact, but they're stubborn. They're still well loved, but rarely see much action outside of my sock drawer. They're far too heavy for everyday wear, which is probably why they've survived this long. 

Today, its pouring outside, so I rooted around in my sock drawer until I found the brown uglies and pulled them onto my feet. There is a hole in the toe of one of them. 

I wore them anyway. Part of me wanted to keep them in the drawer always, so I'll always have them, this small tangible link to my brother, but instead I decided that I'm going to wear them until they've got no more life left in them. 

Its a big-picture thing. 
My brother's memory isn't something that I should hide in a drawer.