This weekend a band of twenty-something children moved out from our house into their own apartment 15 miles away. The move was a delightful mix of chaos and organization. I’ve packed moving vans so many times over the years the process is almost like an art to me. The mixture of furniture and boxes and plastic bins is performance art in the making.
But no matter how well you pack stuff, it always shifts when you start driving. You sit in the cab of the van and wait for the inevitable CLUNK or THUMP to happen. And you drive on. Nothing you can do about it until you reach your destination. So much of life is like that.
Then comes the lugging and the shoving and the dragging of furniture and mattresses and boxes of stuff that won’t be sorted for days, even weeks. But when you’re not the one moving in, that’s not your problem. Instead, you literally brush your hands of it and drive away. Good luuuuck with that!
Back home, there are still bits of household detritus to engage and arrange. The kids’ rooms needed to be cleaned, and my wife did that. The basement needed some reorganization after the extra stuff was removed. I did that.
And then there was the remaining issue of the Lost Sock bag back in my bedroom.
I’d been holding out hope that during the moving and sorting of clothing, some of my Lost Socks would magically reappear from the drawers of the stepdaughters and boyfriend who were moving. One or two socks did show up, but some of those were actually refugees from behind the washer and dryer where my wife found them during a general house inspection.
After the joyous reunion of rediscovered socks, there remained a foot-tall bag of orphaned socks to be reconciled. Alas, the siblings of those socks remained missing. Some of them are cycling socks. Others are for running. There are also lonely-looking dress socks, whose forlorn stripes have no purpose without a kindred soul.
Somewhere in the universe, their sibling likely rests among strangers. That happens when six or eight people try living together. The melting pot of the laundry basket has no real rules. Orphaned socks are like DACA refugees living in America. They didn’t ask to be lost, and can only hold out hope they’ll one day really have a home.
One could argue the whole world is subject to such Sock Drawer Politics. Where do any of us really belong? We can either accept that we’re all orphaned socks or keep on treating each other like sock puppets worthy of abuse. Which will it be?
That’s why I’ve held onto my refugee socks for months on end. My sentimental sympathy for orphaned socks is strong. I hate squandering resources and loathe giving up on something before its time. But with something so dispensable as socks, one has to accept that all socks abide the Dust to Dust model of existence here on earth. Ultimately they must be discarded unless you’re really into recycling socks.
They can be converted to other uses like the monkey sock above, but that is only delaying the inevitable. Some sport socks are so small they could never be used to create a sock monkey. One could hardly make a sock shrew out of them.
Sock it to me
And this fact is largely true: All socks wear out sooner or later except for Darned Tough Socks. My buddy swears by those, but that still doesn’t prevent them from becoming orphans if you live for a year with a band of 20-somethings for whom socks are just an annoying necessity to consider between games of Cards Against Humanity.
Even my expensive and prized tall ThorLo socks turn soft and slack at the upper end sooner or later. The shorter socks don’t have that problem, but they don’t keep out snow when it is deep.
To their credit: my ThorLos usually last ten years or so. That’s 100 annums in Sock Years. They’ve long since exceeded their Return On Investment in that case.
I once numbered my ThorLos with a Sharpie to keep them together in pairs. That action drew such teasing from my family members, I never tried it again. Besides, if I had a #1 and a #2 sock in the drawer, it never felt right to wear them together.
Mismatched and still useful
The problem with some mismatched socks is that they really could function together if one did not care about the color. A pair of mismatched socks of the same brand and the same model––but different colors––should work just fine. But should you pair them up and continue using them that way? Hmmmm.
That would work out alright in running. But if you wear mismatched socks on the bike the comments would likely get snarky in a hurry. Cyclists are typically not a laid-back bunch when it comes to mis-matched or worn out attire. Even a pair of slightly threadworn cycling shorts can be subjected to cruel inspection in certain crowds. If they are so worn your ass crack or genitals show, no one wants to look at that. But even a bit of pilling and fading from excessive washing or wear is unacceptable in certain circles. Dress well and ride hard. Those are the rules. It’s a bit anal-retentive, but such is life in the Lycra crowd.
So the idea of heading out on a ride with one red sock and one blue one is simply not acceptable. Not unless you want to get ridden off the shoulder in disgust.
I’ve admittedly worn mismatched socks inside my running shoes. But it never feels quite right to do so. Something feels askew in the universe when you know your feet are covered in socks of different colors or textures. That is not a testimony yin and yang. It is less a question of balance as it is a confession of guilt over poor preparation.
That doesn’t mean I haven’t been grateful to scrounge up a pair of socks from the bowels of my vehicle when I’ve forgotten to pack them in the gym bag for an afternoon run at some far-flung forest preserve. When you’re doing the requisite car change and find that you’ve neglected to bring the right equipment, gratitude for a simple pair of mismatched socks jammed down in the seats is a welcome sight. Who cares if they’re dirty or stink? This way they can go back in the wash after another six miles. They’re earned their keep for sure.
Don’t take it lightly
That’s why I don’t take it lightly when socks find their lonely way into the mismatched sock drawer. Typically it’s my own negligence that got them there. That layer of emotion calls up all my other flaws. The mismatched socks absorb my guilt like colorful remnants of bad memories. They recall the worst instincts and habits in our lives. Broken relationships. Political divides. Harsh family. Getting off track. Feeling lost or broken. Like mismatched socks.
It all reminds me of a beautiful song by George Harrison titled Isn’t It a Pity. The words seem to cover so much about life, and possibly about the colorful world of lost socks, and the regrets that go with them.
Some things take so long, but how do I explain
When not too many people
Can see we’re all the same?
And because of all their tears
Their eyes can’t hope to see
The beauty that surrounds them
Isn’t it a pity