The Princess, Her Socks, and Her Late Pass

An except from Twirling Naked in the Streets and No-One Noticed…


“You tried on ten pairs of socks every morning before deciding which pair you would wear” ~ Mom

I hate socks. I hate the way they feel on my feet, the way they bunch up in my shoes, and how the seams rub against my toes when I walk. Socks make me hot. When I’m overheated the first thing I need to do is rip them off—now.

To make matter worse my mother liked to buy thin nylon socks trimmed with lace. Not many materials irritate me more than scratchy lace. The thin nylon socks made my feet sweaty. My feet slid around inside my hard patent leather school shoes. They were not good shoes for a clumsy kindergartener.

When I finally found a pair of socks that I could wear, they usually did not match. Mom insisted that I just didn’t like any of the socks, but if that was the case then why did I need to try each pair on? Why did I need to see how they felt on my feet? Wouldn’t I have just flat out refused to put them on because I didn’t like them?

By the time I was dressed, and my three year old brother was in the carriage, we were rushing to make it to school on time.

“You could not make Jeannie move fast.” ~ Mom

Every morning the three of us set out to walk the five blocks to school. We headed up the avenue in the opposite direction of Grandma’s fabric store. We walked past the pork store, my favorite candy store, which was still closed and covered with a steel shutter, past the bagel store, the Becker’s carpet shop, and across 61st street with the crossing guard waving us onward.

“Jeannie you’re going to be late,” mom said. I had stopped short in front of the side entrance to the school. My mother turned to the right heading toward the schoolyard where the kindergarteners entered, and I turned left.

“You can still go in through the schoolyard,” mom said.

I said nothing, stayed the path, and marched around the corner heading for the front entrance; Mom followed.

I stepped inside the door just when the bell rang.

“Good Morning, Jeannie.” The woman’s voice said from the small desk that sat just to the left side of the entrance. I kept walking.

Mother was still wrestling my brother out of his carriage when I started climbing the towering steps. When I reached the first landing I stopped and stooped down.

“Hurry up, Jeannie. Your late,” the woman’s voice came from below.

“I have to fix my shoes.”

When I was satisfied with my adjustments, I continued my assent to the first floor, and marched to the main office.

I walked straight passed the ladies behind the desk, around the counter, past the school secretary, and into the principal’s office.

Mr. Hiler was a huge man; he towered over me, his head reaching almost to the ceiling when he stood up.

“Hello Jeannie,” he said walking out from behind his desk. He handed me a small piece of paper all ready and waiting for me. I hopped up into the seat in front of his desk.

“She still won’t come in through the school yard,” mother said. She was slightly out of breath from toting my brother up the stairs on her hip.

Mr. Hiler smiled; mother did not.

“Why won’t you come in through the schoolyard?” he asked.

“She just wants to be late, “mother said.

“I have to see Mr. Hiler for my late pass.”

“You wouldn’t need a late pass if you went in the other way,” mom argued.

“I need to see Mr. Hiler for my late pass!” I said in a slightly louder voice than before to make my point clearer. Mom’s face turned red. Why does her face turn that color?

“It’s alright, Jeannie can come to see me whenever she likes,” Mr. Hiler said. “Now off to class, Mrs. Divine is waiting for you.”

I smiled, and walked out of his office scowling at my mother as I went by. Why didn’t she understand? She knows I have to get my late pass.

To my mother, I was just being difficult; I wanted to do things my own way. I had a mind of my own and no-one was going to change it—ever.

This scene played itself over and over again. The leaves dried up, snow fell, flowers bloomed, and days changed. My patent leather shoes changed into snow boots, and my boots to sandals, but the routine never changed. I marched to the front entrance, up the stairs to the landing, fixed my shoes, walked into the office, ignored the ladies, and drifted into Mr. Hiler’s office to retrieve my late pass. Then, and only then, did I go to see Mrs. Divine, my kindergarten teacher.

Mr. Hiler’s words, Jeannie can come to see me whenever she likes, proved troublesome for years to come.

Looking back I now know my morning sock routine was due to tactile sensitivities. I needed to find a pair I could tolerate. I know this because I am the same today about my socks. But what about the rest of my routine? Was my pause to fix my shoes on the landing born from the socks and shoes being irritating? Why did I only fix them on that landing—every single day without deviation for the entire school year?

I could not stray from that routine. I suspect that it was the routine I adopted on the first day of school, and that was how every day of school thereafter had to go. Yes—I was late on my first day of kindergarten because of the rocks in my socks that no-one could find.

As an adult I find myself adhering to very similar patterns of behavior. If I unpack boxes from a move and put something away it is very difficult for me to move it. That becomes its place, and it always lives there even if it is not where I want it. It is important for me to unpack and arrange my things thoughtfully the first time because wherever I place the toaster is where it is going to stay. That initial placing, the initial routine becomes set in stone.

18 thoughts on “The Princess, Her Socks, and Her Late Pass

  1. I had a few quirks when I was in grade school. It wasn’t easy as I never was in the same school for more than three years (in three different countries). One of them was that, when walking to/from school, if I saw a rock or stone I had to bring it home. I’ve always had obsessive/compulsive behavior but it never was bad enough to be considered a disorder.

  2. Funny, I love socks. I can’t have bare feet. But they have to be fairly specific socks that don’t make my toes hurt… and they have to be at least pulled up to my calf, preferably up to my knee. None of those silly ankle socks for me.

    • That is funny. It really shows how we are so similiar and all so different as well. I cannot wear any socks that are not ankle–if I wear them at all. I have always had the habit of getting snow in my socks because they were too low cut. Now I live in warmer weather so at least I don’t have to worry about my ankles getting wet with snow–and I get to wear flip flops for many months out of the year!

  3. This was extremely powerful and poignant! Em does things in specific ways and I’m left wondering why, sometimes it seems that it’s because she feels this is the way it has to be and sometimes it seems to be because of “rocks in her socks” that none of us can see. What I loved about this was that in the telling, I not only understood and identified with that desire for sameness and routine, but I was able to gain better insight into what may be going on for my daughter. The mark of a good writer is one who can describe a seemingly nonsensical event and render it sensible to the reader. You’ve done that beautifully.

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  5. I have the same tendency to do something once and then keep doing it the exact same way. I became really aware of it recently when I moved. At first I felt unusually carefree because I had to find a new way of doing everything but within days I was right back into routines.

    Do you think that when you were told on the first day of kindergarten that you had to get a late pass that you then thought getting a late pass was just what everyone did upon arriving at school? Just a thought.

    • I think it is very possible. Being only five years old, I would not have reasoned that this should not occur everyday. Although my mother insists (still) that I only wanted to go see the principal first, because that I just what I wanted to do, I don’t see how that could be true.

      Even without knowing what I do now (asperger’s diagnosis) it just doesn’t make sense. Why in the world would I just start school wanting to see a man (the principal) that I did not know for no reason at all? To me, THAT is what does not make any sense.

      How would I have even know to go to the principal’s office in the first place? And they say I’m the one who doesn’t make any sense. LOL

  6. I have a daughter who has been diagnose4d with aspergers. I can’t keep shoes on her when she is at home, except in the coldest of months…she has been known to go outside with bare feet even in the snow. She is not a slave to routine as you describe, but the tactile sensitivity is definitely there…I can not get her too wear jeans-i think she finds them too restrictive.

    • Hi Rhoda,

      I think you may be right about finding the jeans restricting. My 13 year aspie would not wear anything but “blue fireman pants.” That is what he called his active pants when he was little. I think it took me until he was about 6 years old to wear a pair of jeans. So his waredrobe was filled with blue active pants, and now that I think about it, it probably looked like I sent him out in the same thing everyday. LOL This was before I knew about Asperger’s, but since I was the same way I never questioned his odd behavior. Well, in fact, I never thought it was odd at all. 🙂

      I too though would not wear jeans even into adulthood I hated them. Now, I seem only want to wear jeans, so things do change. As I got older I was no longer such a slave to routine, I went through periods of complete jumbled chaos, and now as an adult I am terrible without big routine from day to day. Its the small things…that I must do in order…admittedly, there are many of those.

  7. Funny story: My son has always described the uncomfortable feeling of thick seams on his toes w the phrase “I have rocks in my shoe, get it out!” NOW I know what THAT was really about. But for a while it didnt occur to me & I continued to take him literally. Do u know how many times we have stopped in our tracks (we were already always late so who cared), him standing there waiting shoeless & me inspecting inside and then banging the shoes upsidedown on the nearest flat surface expecting tiny rocks to fall out??? OMG!! I laugh at myself in hindsight. So I think my son got impatient with my inability to figure it out & tired of me looking for “the rocks” in all the wrong places. BC he changed the wording of his complaint. Eventually he started saying, “There’s something in my foot. A rock is inside it!” Now we were taking socks off as well with him watching me search for these rocks as I turned the socks inside out & every which way shaking the hell out of them expecting tiny rocks to fall out. No rocks. Ever.
    Finally, FINALLY one morning, while getting dressed, I see him go to the sock drawer and switch the socks I had set out with his outfit the night before for a different pair of socks in his drawer. Hmmm I asked, “what’s wrong w the socks mommy picked?” And he replied, “They have rocks in them.”
    me: OHHHHHHHHHHH!!! AHH HAAAAAAA!!!! LOL u are calling the inseam rocks!! Oh!! HAHAHA!!! THAAAAAT’S WHAT U MEANT?!?!?!?! OHHH I get it now. OMG. And DUH. Im usually pretty intuitive and can tell what the issue at hand is. We’ve been very close always but over the years ive learned to read him so well. I can predict his every move & I know this kid’s thinking. Cant believe I couldn’t put that one together!!
    Anyway, so one day we were on our way to the park. As we got out of the car and made our way up the path to the playground my son stops and bends down. (uh oh I know what this means) As he adjusts his sneaker, he complains, “hey I think there’s a rock in my shoe!” What do I do? I tell him, there’s no rocks, remember its not really rocks it’s just the way your sock feels on ur toes. He says ok and we proceed. I notice he is walking funny. He keeps stopping. I know it bothers him. I tell him “there’s nothin we can do right now-u have to wait til we get to the bench and then we can sit & fix ur sock ok.” We make it to the bench. We sit down & he takes off his sneaker. He puts it on the bench beside me and lo&behold what comes falling out? That’s right- a small gray rock!!! Hahahaha This time he actually was correct- there was a real rock in his shoe. Lol We looked at each other surprised and started cracking up. Unbelievable, right? So funny.
    (*I have to say though, in my defense, where we live there are rocks everywhere. We live in the southwest and more landscapes are made w pebbles/stones/rock than grass/greenery. I wear open shoes year round pretty much. Tiny pebbles go inside my flip flops & under my foot all the time.)
    So now I know- some socks are totally unwearable&some socks are better than others. But we have yet to find perfect socks. We’ve been on the search ever since. Have u found where to buy “socks without rocks”? Lol
    They sell seamless clothing & accessories on a few sites but they r pretty expensive.

    • That was a seriously funny story! I am glad to know that I am not the only one who had those invisible rocks in my socks. I still get them, but now I know it is the seems. The other thing that drives me nuts about socks is that they make my feet hot! I get overheated (temperature regulations issues) a lot, and the first thing I want to rip off is my socks.

      I do like those soft fuzzy socks, and can wear them around the house sometimes, but not inside shoes. They are too thick. Mostly, I would rather be barefoot, but then of course if there are little grains of dirt on the floor (in my house there always is) then that drives me bonkers too. Guess there really is no pleasing me after all…lol

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