We sat in the minivan, in the darkened garage. The whole way home from school I just let her cry. I tried to understand her through the sobs. She didn’t fit it. She said awkward things. She felt overwhelmed that she was expected to know basic U.S. highschooler things like patriotism and social nuances. She vented. I let her.
When the quiet came and the breathing slowed I waited. There are absolutely no words to heal the hurt of culture clash. This wasn’t the fist time we cried together, it wouldn’t be the last. I looked at her, and a thought came to me.
“When you are getting ready in the morning, are all your clothes suddenly on all at once?” I asked. She looked back at me, confusion was added to the facial expression of the misery of displacement. When she didn’t answer, I probed further, “Like, do you pop out of bed and then all of a sudden your shirt is on, your jeans are on, and your converse are laced up and ready to go?” She shook her head, still wondering where I was going with this seemingly irrelevant line of reasoning.
“Here’s the thing, babe, you don’t expect to wake up all put together. We can’t expect ourselves to be all of a sudden all put together in this new culture. When we get dressed we do it one piece at a time. The shirt. The jeans. Etc. We can’t even put both socks on at the same time. We put one sock on. Then the other.” I took a break from the analogy to remind her of the things she had been able to learn and enjoy in this culture. Simple things, that took effort at first, but were now the new normal. Drinking water from the tap. How things work with family close. Getting to know a few people. Then I made my point.
“Celebrate the socks,” I told her, “Celebrate each little part of learning to live in this new life.”
Now, when our heads start to droop from the tiresome transitional woes, we look down and let our socks remind us of the small accomplishments along the way. We remind ourselves to celebrate those socks on our feet. Poco a poco, as we say in Spanish, little by little. We’ll get all the way dressed, eventually. But for this moment we can be pleased that there are socks on our feet.
Note: This conversation took place a while back, in the Fall of 2015. There have since been many opportunities to Celebrate the Socks.