Life of Socks

Here’s the Deal

Over the last four years, give or take a month or two, I’ve collected six white socks.  “White” of some shade or another for which I have no “mates.”  Or they have no mates.  One has a red stripe on the toe, another has a green stripe.  Yes, the stripes are the same color inside and outside – or outside and inside, but with socks, it is sometimes as impossible to tell in from out as left from right.  One has no stripe but a grey heel, another has a white heel but a grey toe. Two are plain.  These plain ones, with no stripe or reinforcing of toe or heel in a snazzy off-color – two-tone as it were – are, by laws governing socks, still “white” socks.  The all-white socks do have a textured weave on the ankle that distinguishes them from each other, and ignoring stripes and heels, from every other one of these six unmatched beauties.

Why have I saved them?  For the very same reason everyone saves unmated socks – we are possessed of a strong but nonetheless futile belief that the missing mate will show up sometime later and a happy reunion will take place. We persist in this belief in spite of a lifetime of experience suggesting otherwise.

Our washer and dryer are very well-behaved. They do not wantonly swallow, or otherwise digest odd socks, an occasional pair of dainty briefs, handkerchiefs, or bathroom area rugs.  I cannot in fact recall the exact times these unmated socks showed up.  In fact, I can’t say for sure I was the one folding and discovering any of these loners.  We are a shared responsibility family, so washing drying, and folding are like as not to be done by one spouse as the other.  We do draw the line at put-away except for common items like towels, linens, tablecloths and so on. Dresser drawers are for some reason sovereign territory.  Please don’t ask me to deduce a reason or assess virtue here, it’s simply fact.

One thinks on first discovery perhaps the laundry basket wasn’t completely emptied. Or that in tossing dirty socks into the laundry basket, something less than the skills of Michael Jordan were on display.  Or maybe there were two loads of whites and previously happily-mated socks were in separate wash loads, separate dryer loads and perhaps one load still has not crossed the laundry day finish-line.

But the missing mate doesn’t show up.  The singleton goes into the “sock” drawer, always conspicuous in that it is not – depending on your sock-drawer style – mated and folded longwise once and stacked into the drawer, or a favorite of mine but reserved for dress socks, rolled into a ball and more-or-less sealed inside one of the pair.  After a couple of months and after filing a missing-sock report with the laundry police, the singleton moves to the bottom drawer – the one where the t-shirts you really need to throw away but are saving for the day you repaint the dining room are kept with the jeans too loose – good for you! – or too tight, but in “reserve” against the vagaries of middle-age waistline ebb and flow.

I said six socks?  Seven.  One more falls into the “white” group but it is gray.  Not a “sweat sock” – remember sweat socks? – but close.  Not hard gray, but soft and at first glance it looks white. A classy sock, but presently a loner.

I buy socks all at once.  And not that often.  I can’t imagine buying six – excuse me seven – different styles of white socks.  Not in four years.  I have some socks older than my son, who has now a son of his own.  And I presume, though we’ve never discussed this highly personal subject, a “special” place in his sock drawer for orphaned socks. Mine are still serviceable and not in that “old guy” kind of way.  I mean they are really almost new.

So, I don’t know where these socks came from, really.  Like they snuck into the laundry room one day when no one was standing guard?  They are strays off the street?  I’m not certain. I do not believe I bought every one of them.

This morning I brought these mismatches to my office, ostensibly to cut them into nice soft rags for my garage messes.  Wait.  These are good socks.  If you cut them, they start shedding little sock balls everywhere.  That won’t do.  Won’t do to use them whole – can’t have Lester from next door come over and catch me with my hand inside a sock wiping oil off the lawn mower cowl.  I can hear his jeering comments about “playing hand puppets.”  Rather not have to deal with that.

Great idea.  A ton of yard work today, and since I’ll be wearing steel-toed boots because part of that work is wrangling the lawn mower around the yard, I can do this.  Underneath my boots the fashion police, not seeing them, will not have grounds to make an arrest.  The Missus is a high-ranking officer in said fashion-police and I am informed that whether I believe it or not I must dress appropriately even and especially working around the yard.  Who can see what I have on under my boots?  No one.  I’ll wear two of these stray socks under my work boots clomping around the yard.  When done and getting ready for that pre-dinner shower, I’ll just toss those socks in the trash. Every bit as good a use as wiping motor-oil drips or swiping English Walnut stain or imparting a thin oil sheen to every pair of pliers in the pliers drawer in that semi-annual maintenance event.

Three weekends, and I’ve given the socks an honorable send-off to the discard heap – one last use as they were intended.  I seriously doubt they will know or care that they are mismatched.

Who wants to make a bet that four weeks from now another stray white sock will show up?  Likely matching one of the six I ceremoniously retired.

Oh, I’m keeping the gray one. I’d really like to see the mate show up.

© S P Wilcenski August 2010

One thought on “Life of Socks

  1. I did once have a rule that every sock I bought was from the same store, and always black. So there wasn’t really the idea of a “pair” as much as a gang of identical shops. Unfortunately, never get to that shop any more…

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