My parents always argued. About anything and everything. If they were together, they were arguing. This may sound like I’m exaggerating, but I never, ever once heard them have a normal conversation. They would always argue over money because my mother always wanted more and my father didn’t make enough. My mother also wanted to work outside of the house because my father didn’t make enough money, of course. My father wanted her to stay home, so they constantly argued over this, whether she was working or not. When she worked, my father lost partial authority over her. There were certain things that mother could do without my father’s criticism as long as she was a wage earner. For example, she could buy as many records and magazines as she wanted because she had earned the money herself. Of course, when she stopped working, she continued her same shopping habits causing–would you believe it?–more arguments. While the arguments were never physical, they were certainly passionate.
One Sunday morning, my mother woke me up and asked, “Is this a pair of socks?” I could sense by the anger in her tone of voice that not only was she arguing with my father, but that this was a job for me, as their oldest son, to act as a mediator for them. I was still sleepy because on Saturday nights I liked to stay up late watching old movies on TV. My eyes were barely open and the room was barely lighted because the sun was still rising. “Is this a pair of socks?” my mother asked me again in Spanish, holding up a pair of orlon socks in her hand. I said, “It looks like a pair of socks to me.” “No, this is not a pair of socks!” she yelled. I was now fully awake. I was once again trapped by one of her trick questions.
“Look at these socks,” she said. “Do they match?” Well, in the darkness of my bedroom, they looked like they matched. “Your father wants to wear this pair of socks to church. If he wears these socks to church, we’re not going with him. I would rather burn in hell than be seen with your father in church wearing these socks!” My mother always loved to be overly dramatic. “What’s wrong with those socks?” I asked her, knowing full well that I would be the recipient of my mother’s wrath. “You are just as blind as your father! Look! One sock is blue and one is black!”
I couldn’t see the difference of the colors in the darkness, so I turned on the light. Even with the lights on, I thought my mother was holding up a pair of matching socks. If my father had worn those socks to church, no one would have noticed anyway because: 1. They looked like a matching pair of socks; 2. My father’s pants covered up his socks anyway; and 3. In our parish, no one went to church to check out other people’s socks. By then, the sun was out and my mother took me out to the front porch along with my father. “See?” she said. “One sock is blue and one is black!” As I stared at the socks, I observed that one sock was indeed blue, a dark navy blue, that if you looked quickly, appeared black. And the other sock was black, but it had faded in the wash a little so it had a bluish tint to it. Overall, this looked like a matching pair of socks to me.
As I nervously examined the socks in my hands, my mother awaited my verdict. My father sent me signals through body language that I failed to correctly interpret. My father and I were both doomed. The well-being of my entire family rested on my decision. I felt sorry for my father because he could never dress for Sunday mass without experiencing my mother’s harsh criticism about his fashion sensiblity. I could feel my mother glaring at me. I had to make a diplomatic decision. What to do? What to do? Finally, I stated what I believed to be true of the socks even though I knew I would anger my mother. “This is a pair of socks,” I said. “Wait, Mom! Let me finish. The blue sock is so dark that it looks black and the black sock looks like it has a little blue in it.”
My mother exploded! “I told you to stay out of our arguments,” she yelled at me. Just then, she saw two girls from our parish walking to mass. She called them over to our front porch. “Is this a pair of socks?” she asked them. They both shook their heads. “See?” my mother said to my father and me. “One sock is blue and the other is black,” one of the girls said. The other girl nodded in agreement. However, the girls couldn’t agree on which sock was the blue sock and which one was the black one, which infuriated my mother.
Well, we eventually went to church that Sunday, albeit, a little late. And my father wore brown socks.