YOUR SOCK IS DEAD AND BURIED
Over the years I’ve tried to explain this to my kids—or worse, to my lawyer husband. “I hate to tell you this, but your sock is nowhere. It’s gone.”
“You’re in charge here,” says my husband. “Socks don’t just evaporate. So where is it?”
“If I knew, Rob, I’d give it to you. But I don’t have the slightest idea. It went into the laundry . . . and it never came out.”
I get this shaking of the head and this look--like I’m crazy. But if I’m nuts, so is every other woman I’ve known. Socks disappear. It’s a rule of American households. You start with a pair, and before long you’ve got only one. And if the missing sock ever turns up (like maybe it’s been hiding under a tee-shirt nobody ever wears), by then you’ve thrown away its mate. So you’ve still got only one.
Inexplicably, the subject came up last week in my writing class--how socks enter the washing cycle and are never seen again. When you finally get around to pairing them up, about a fourth are missing. And how men can’t accept it, so it must be something their wives are doing. And how any guy smarter than a pinhead knows an object as tangible as a piece of footwear doesn’t just vanish.
As my student Marcia told us, “My husband was dumbfounded. ‘You just lost them, that’s all. They have to be somewhere.’”
She said, “Then you do the laundry,” so for a year, he did. After a while his manly common sense reared up. “They must be in the dryer vent. They’ve gotta be piled up there in one big lump.” With that he painstakingly took the vent apart . . . and nothing.
Next he went outside. “They must have blown right through.” He examined the ground around the external opening, but all he found was traces of lint clinging to a bush.
After a year he said, “I give up. You take over the laundry.” The mysterious issue was never raised again.
For years we had this discussion in our house. Five boys here, lots of laundry. No lawyer would ever accept a fact not in evidence—that our dryer, in particular, harbored a sock-eating demon. Clearly the fault was mine. Over a decade, I dutifully spent some thousand hours trying to pair up socks that didn’t match, ending with several dozen that didn’t belong to each other, or any close relative.
I kept those orphans all through my Thirties, literally hanging on to a thread of hope. Next I bought blue for Bobby, red for Chris, and so on—meaning the leftovers were all in different colors. Finally, in desperation, I splurged—on three dozen pair, all alike. The boys no longer had a choice. From then on, no matter what happened, I was only off by one.
Other mothers did it differently. Dorsey labeled her daughter’s socks to match her daughter’s names. “A” for Audra, and so on. The “C” child invariably cried out, “This sock has “B.”
The problem was never solved—not for me, not for anyone. It only goes away when the children move out.
In the Wills household, however, the sock problem has become immortalized. This may seem hard to believe, but on the cover of my book, “A Circus Without Elephants,” the whole family is sitting on our roof. Even after the book was published, one detail totally escaped me—until my son, Kenny, pointed it out. “Did you ever notice, Mom, that I’m wearing two different socks?”
"A Circus Without Elephants" is available on my website: Maralys.com