Sometimes a story is just a story. Many times in these posts I try to draw an analogy to theatre or life, or employ metaphor. But really, sometimes a story is just a story. And this is a story about socks.
This story begins many years ago, early in my professional career when I had the pleasure of working with the director John Dillon on The Playboy Of The Western World at Playmakers Rep. John wore spectacularly colorful and fun socks. One day I asked him where the sock thing came from and he told a story about surviving cancer, and how during treatments and CT scans and cold rooms with cold doctors he thought he would bring some joy and color into the mix. His doctors soon followed suit and began wearing similar socks. I thought this both a really cool story, and a really cool way to put some pep in one’s step, some pride in the stride. So, I too started to collect strange and outlandish socks.
Let’s jump six or seven years into the future, though this is still six years ago. I’m getting married. Somehow I haven’t packed socks. And let me remind you, I am an itinerant actor; my life up until this point has been lived out of suitcases. I am an accomplished packer. Yet somehow I have overlooked packing appropriate socks for my wedding day. I do what any sensible man does in this situation: I call my father.
Dad of course has socks for me. Black socks. Normal, boring, black socks. I feel a little silly wearing my father’s socks on my wedding day. But, I have to say, I also felt so taken care of, so thankful to have my dad there on that day, thankful to slide those socks on and get on with the task at hand. And by task at hand, I mean the most important and awesome task of my life so far. So in boring black socks, I wed my wife and my life gets better.
Another jump in time. Here we are in the present. Last week, my grandmother died. My father’s mother, after a long and amazing life, passed on. I had recently had a procedure to blast a kidney stone, and was in the midst of passing the fragments of that stone, when I received the news about my grandmother. In a blessed convergence, because of the kidney stone, we had put an understudy on at Gulfshore Playhouse for the role I was currently preforming, which meant that I would be able to attend the funeral without causing too many ripples in my professional life down here. So in the middle of recovering and rejoining my cast on stage for the final weekend of performances, I bought a plane ticket, got my suit ready, and packed to go home to North Carolina for about 15 hours.
So there I am packing, riffling through my sock drawer. I will remind you that we are twelve or thirteen years past my initial decision to buy crazy socks. The collection has grown and my sock drawer is full of options with which to sheath my feet. I should also point out that I am not the kind of person who pairs socks after a load of laundry. All sock like things go into the drawer unmatched, waiting for me to search for the match to whatever sock I first come across that strikes my fancy. Again, I am there packing to head north to my grandmother’s funeral, and what socks float to the top of the sock maelstrom in my drawer? My dad’s black socks from my wedding. I have not worn these socks since then. I have lived in several states, done countless freelance acting jobs in several more states, and somehow there they were. Without really any thought, it became absolutely clear that those were the socks that I would be wearing.
So last Friday night, after performing in the show for the first time since the procedure, I rush home, take a quick shower, throw on suit, shirt, tie, these magic socks, and shoes. I hop in the car, drive north to Tampa, grab an hour nap in the car, board the plane and arrive in NC right in time to head to the service.
And the service is beautiful. Moving and funny, poignant, exactly what you want a day like that to be. And at some point during the mourning and celebrating of one of the most amazing and brave women I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, I glance down at my father’s feet and see that he is wearing the exact same socks that I am wearing. And it was one of those moments where no deep thought is needed. Everything made so much sense. The continuity of life, the cycle, the circle, the gifts received and passed on from mother to son, from father to son, from generation to generation, all those things landed on me with such elegant and easy force.
Sometimes a story is just a story, and sometimes socks are just socks. But sometimes, if you’re lucky, socks can be the most beautifully told story. Sometimes socks can convey everything you need to receive in the quickest and easiest of ways. And on that day, my socks gave me everything I needed; they told me the story of life.