socks," my father informs me. He is standing there in bare feet on the linoleum in the passage way. It must be decidedly chilly.
"On the clotheshorse," I tell him, knowing that he means a particular pair of socks. They were made for him by a friend of ours and he loves them with a passion he reserves for no other clothes.
"Are they dry?"
"They should be by now. I'll get them."
"I can do it."
"I know you can but I do not want you walking around in bare feet."
"It is a bit cold."
The socks, fortunately, are dry. These are definitely the wear-to-church and special-places pair. Most of the time he does not even seem to notice. He complains his feet are cold. I produce heavy woollen socks, the pairs I bought in Bendigo two or three winters back and suggest he might wear them.
"I forgot I had those," he tells me. I wonder why. He does not really have a lot of clothes, or rather he has a lot of old clothes. He hates throwing anything out. He does not have many good clothes any more. He does not need them. I have to check before he leaves the house or he will go off wearing a disreputable pair of old grey trousers rather than the new trousers he thought he needed to buy last year. Why? And why does he not wear those thick warm socks when he agrees that yes, they are comfortable and they do keep his feet warm.
The woollen pullover he has been wearing in the shed the last few days is a disgrace. There is a large hole in the sleeve. Some yarn has pulled elsewhere. I have not been permitted to rescue it and mend it - yet. I say nothing. He is happy. He is wearing a second woollen garment underneath to stay warm. I say nothing about that either. I trust the outer one is protecting the inner one which is a better garment.
But the socks are a different story. They were made especially for him. They fit perfectly. They are a nice sober subtle navy blue tweed. They do not fall down around his skinny ankles. They feel good inside his shoes. They are, above all, warm and comfortable and an act of friendship.
We can both understand why Pablo Neruda once wrote an ode to his own socks. These socks are sheer poetry.