Walking Socks

Musings of a Single Mum 2010-02

Like every good mother I have a stack of orphan socks. I don't know why deep down in my heart I keep on hoping that I will find the missing twin. Sometimes I do find it and then decide to throw them out, now that the holey pair is complete. There is perfect logic in this method. The hopeful fool that I am, I will keep single socks indefinitely. If I throw out a single sock, I might keep the other one forever, not realising that its buddy has already gone the way of all flesh. There is one thing that's worse: it breaks my heart to throw out an orphan sock and then inevitably find its twin a week later. What a tragedy, it's the stuff that dramas are made of: Romeo and Juliet missed each other in a nick of time... my fault. When I do find a pair, I carefully fold them, my heart brimming with satisfaction. There is a sense of order in the universe, as long as socks find their way back together. I look at them with tender mercy,

for alas, their unity is bound to be short-lived in the hands of cruel enemies, namely daughters Nos 1 & 2 and son No 5. I have a mother-of-two-sons friend who confided in me that she could not wait until both boys' feet had grown. “I just went and bought fifty pairs of black socks, all the same. I solved the problem once and for all.” She's the one who tortured me with a riddle: “Imagine a bag with 51 socks, 25 red ones and 26 white ones. Without looking inside you must pull out socks until you have a matching pair. What are the most times you'd have to dip into the bag?” I have a mother-of-four friend who has a laundry line so lavish and clothe pegs so plentiful that she can afford to keep the single socks pinned up until the matchmaking is complete. But I think she hasn't discovered the sock-Romeo-Juliet tangent. She must be ruthlessly throwing out any old sock she doesn't like. Her orphan socks clock in at about 20. I can quintuple that easily. Because I know my kids' habit of tossing used socks whichever way and working them into remote nooks and crannies of their rooms. Aah, clearly, there is an incentive to make the yearly spring cleaning ceremony a monthly one. But then, if you have teenage daughters, you'll be savvy on how they react if you dare intrude into the forbidden realms of nether-bed mysteries.

Says daughter No 1 (warning tone... urgency indicated): “You know she'll go crazy if she finds out that you tidied that corner there.” Her concern is justified, because she has to live with her sister and they both find each other a chore to be around. “Ahh, no worries,” I say, “you can just tell her that I was looking for some more darks to fill up a machine load. We're safe.” But son No 5 takes the cake. One day, before going out on a date, (hoarse voice, annoyance clearly audible) he says: “Mother, my socks don't seem to come back to me from the laundry.” I look at him, sort of debating in motherly concern, whether he is being sarcastic or naïve: “Well, what do you expect? Socks walking over to your shelf on their tippie-toes by themselves?” “Well..... yeah..... kind of....” I drop on the next chair in hysterical laughter, you know the kind that gives you asthma for the rest of the day. It's the thought of walking socks... just imagine, a dream come true, all my orphan sock concerns were over in one fell swoop... He looks at me in disgust and says: “What's wrong with you?”
Irma Walter 2010

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