Fun with socks as a gift

This is a story about how my family is just like families where everyone is able-bodied…at the same time that we’re not. It is a holiday story – a Chanukah story – and a story about inside jokes.

It requires this background: Lily, when she was young, loved ripping paper. A lot. Maybe it was the sensation, or maybe it was the sound, but she would rip up most papers that she encountered. She managed to rip just the last page out of my paperback of Charlotte’s Web (yeah, I’m still upset about it 20 years later, so?), and ripped up her own books and sometimes my homework. She was banned from my dad’s office because she had gotten her hands on a box for software that was still needed. So for my dear sister, any gift-giving occasion during which she was allowed to rip open wrapping paper became an extra special event. (Seriously: she used to sit and rip up the wrapping paper after she’d opened the gift.) She has, thankfully, managed to suppress her pleasure in ripping papers, with the exception of gifts.

She also is a fan of melodrama, and does startlingly good impressions of women (all the men sound similar, as she tries to lower her pitch). Lily picked up on her (ahem) easily amused older sister’s response to many gifts, and became a bit of a mimic. She is known for crying out, “Oh, look! Thank you!” and similar…before the gift is open. This is even more amusing to me, as the easily amused sister, now that she can’t see and therefore needs even more time to figure out what she’s got in her hands.

Which brings us to a recent amusement…

Two years ago, my mother (as she often does) bought my sister some socks and wrapped them up as gifts for Chanukah. Lily loves gifts so much that we all get extra gifts for her, and let her open our gifts, so she gets a lot of otherwise basic goods wrapped up for the holiday. This is, after all, her major paper-tearing time, even though our nominal tradition is for everyone to get one present for everyone else.

One evening, then, Lily unwrapped a pair of socks, and my mom, playing her part in the script, said, “Oooh! What is it? What did you get?” Lily worked the socks in her hands, probing and testing, and then got this really disdainful sneer on her face, and replied, “It’s socks.”

Naturally, at this point, the rest of us started laughing pretty hard. Mom confided to me that Lily had one more gift of socks waiting for her, and so later that week we saw a repeat, although Lily was more resigned to having been given socks. Poor thing – she’s sealed her fate, now, and will probably get socks for Chanukah every year.

Which did, in fact, happen a year ago. Did I mention that Lily hates wearing socks? She tolerates them if she’s wearing shoes, but at home, she’s constantly barefoot. Much as I love this prank, I do feel a little bit sorry for her. But only a little bit.

This past year, one of her staffers emailed me to talk about Chanukah gifts that Lily could give to our parents during the same few weeks that my mom and I were discussing our plans for family and friends for the holidays. Mom and I had a good laugh about Lily getting more socks. And then I wrote to the staffer that she and Lily should go buy some socks, for Mom at minimum and for Dad, too, if possible. We chatted on the phone on the day they went shopping, and I learned that they had picked out some socks for Mom.

Let me tell you, my mom laughed really hard when she opened her present and found socks inside. (I was on speakerphone for our long-distance joint candlelighting and gift opening.) I’m not sure Lily quite understood what was happening, partly because she was consumed with her own unwrapping, but for a moment, it made me really happy for all of us. It took a lot of finagling that wouldn’t have been necessary if Lily were a typical sib, but still: together, we had a family joke that everyone was part of.

Bonus: my mom loved the socks that Lily helped pick out!


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