“I sure wish someone would take my socks off,” I said lazily extending my feet into the air. I was sitting at the end of my girl’s bed preparing to read them a chapter of their story book, and the removal of Daddy’s socks is often part of our bedtime routine. Clara started it years ago. I climb up onto her bed and dangle my legs over the side, and she would beg to pull my socks off. This would turn into a playfully game of puppy tug of war. I would bend my ankle back and forth to make it harder or easier to take off. She would pull, leaning back with all of her weight, and then I would point my toes and she would fall over backwards, laughing in a heap on her bedroom floor.
When Lydia arrived the two of them would fight over who got to take my socks off. But this conflict was easily solved due to the fact that I have two feet, and each of them could work on a different sock. I would just lean back casually on their bed and page through a book, making sure to point my toes at the exact same moment so the two of them would fall in a bundle together.
Tonight, I stuck my feet out, as was the tradition. I said “I sure wish someone would take my socks off!”, as was tradition. The sheets exploded to life and the girls hopped out of bed, as was tradition. But I very quickly realized that something was wrong. The girls had not hopped out of bed. That had been my imagination. In fact, only little Lydia had hopped up and was now yanking back and forth on the toe of my sock. Clara remained where she was, lying perfectly still in bed with her head on her pillow. I leaned over and looked at her eyes. She was awake, staring disinterestedly at her sister who was jumping up and down attempting to inch my sock around my heel.
“Clara,” I sang, “I need someone to take my sock off.”
She didn’t move. Still watching her sister. She sighed. “I don’t want to take your socks off.”
“Whaaaat?” I tried to make it sound like it would be absurd to not jump at the chance to remove a grown man’s socks. “That’s absurd! Don’t you want to take off your Dad’s socks?”
She scrunched up her nose dismissively, “Nah…”
I triggered my heel and sent Lydia sprawling onto her back in the corner of the room. She turned the roll into a bounce and waved a black sock above her head. She tossed it in the air like a single piece of confetti.
I turned and poked the toes of my socked foot playfully into Clara’s chin. “Come on… Take off my sock, Clara.”
She giggled and rolled over, “No. No, thank you,” she said calmly.
“More for Me!” Lydia cheered pouncing on my leg like a zebra in the Serengeti. I grabbed the younger child’s arms and lifted her into the air. She twirled above my head, haloed by twinkle lights that hung above their bedroom window. When she came back down she had my sock on her hand like a glove. She cheered and tossed it across the room and tumbled back into bed.
But Clara still never flinched. “Can we read our book now?” she said tiredly.
I wiggled my toes, and placed the covers back over Lydia. “Yes.” I tucked the sheets around both of them. “Yes, I’ll read you your book.”
But my mind was already racing. What had I just witnessed? I had witnessed a death. A passing away. A vanishing of tradition. The dissolving image of an innocent little girl who had somehow transformed without me even realizing it.
I have often spoken to my girls about how the world is constantly changing. It might not seem like it today, but the very thing that you take for granted will one day be impossible. There will be places you will leave and never go back to. People you will say good bye to that you will never see again. Things that you do with your family that one day will seem like nothing more than some strange dream.
Will I remember the last time my daughter Clara ever happily struggled to take off my socks? No. Because it was just another moment of another day, just like all the rest, and it’s a moment I have already forgotten.