Sunday, January 26, 2014

Socks: The Ideal Match

All I wanted was a pair of socks. It was dress-down Friday and I could wear my jeans to work. And that meant my new beaded  moccasins. And that meant socks. But while our house has a total of eight feet living in it--twenty if you count animal feet--and a large supply of socks, it is difficult--no, darn near impossible--to find two that match. Bonnie, creative girl, gave up years ago and  now just pulls out any two socks that are at least the same size. And, for the guys, it is equally simple. Their socks are either black or white. Reach into the sock drawer three times, and they'll have at least two that match.

My socks, however, are a completely different matter. I have trouser socks and knee socks and loafer socks and crew socks and sport socks that used to have little pom poms of yarn on the heels. Who thought pom poms on socks were a good idea? I have gray and blue and brown and striped and hot pink with purple dots, thick socks to be worn with boots and thin socks to wear with loafers. I have enough socks to shod the entire sandaled cast of The Ten Commandments. What I don't have is two that match.

Now, I am aware of the fact that every housewife in the world has lamented the missing sock syndrome. Many have tried to solve it, and I recently read a blog by Dr. George Johnson in which he explains the science of the missing sock at I myself have constructed many theories on the subject of the missing sock, ranging from the suction of the dryer pulling them into the vent to them running away to join a traveling puppet show.

I've tried to make the best of it. I've made orphan socks into toy bunnies and cat toys. When I taught middle school, I once used a whole bunch of rolled up single socks in a game called "Panic." And, of course, soft socks make really nice dust mitts. (In the recent spate of cold weather, my son was seen sporting a pair of mismatched socks as gloves. Clever. But I digress.)

So great has been the mystery of the missing sock that the United States government even formed an official office to look into the matter. No, I am not joking. The Bureau of Missing Socks was formed during the Civil War in 1861 when it was discovered that Union Soldiers, turning in a pair of worn-out socks for a new pair, often turned in only one sock. In typical government style, the United States rallied itself and decided to get to the bottom of the matter. Joseph Smithson, a haberdasher by trade who had proven to be rather a disaster as a quartermaster, was put in charge of the whole sock division of the Unions Army. I am sure his parents were proud.

Anyway, Smithson ran a tightly knit--excuse the pun--organization known as The Darners and insisted upon field repair kits so soldiers could darn their own socks. New England millers, who were making a profit from the feet of the soldiers, tried to put an end to the Bureau of Missing Socks and Smithson's thrift. Even President Lincoln was in favor of disbanding the unit. But the Bureau of Missing Socks became a convenient place to sequester soldiers who were not quite cutting the mustard and high ranking army officials insisted it remain. You can read more about the government's quest to end the mystery of the missing sock at And, yes, the Bureau still exists today because the United States is determined to unravel the great mystery. Many in America are threatened by this silent plague.

Back to my personal dilemma. My own pile of mismatched socks continues to grow and, frankly, I'm running out of places to stuff them all. At the moment, I have a whole dresser drawer and a basket full. My daughter suggests that we throw them all out and start again, but I am as determined and thrifty as the Bureau of Missing Socks. Recently, we took a huge basket of mismatched socks and made "close-enough" pairs, a method invented by my husband who really, really hates to fold socks. It is always a surprise to pull out a rolled-up pair of navy blue socks and find one knee sock and one ankle sock.

Recently, though, I came upon a possible cause. I cannot claim it is the reason that socks go missing in anyone's house but mine. While sipping tea one afternoon and pondering the great mystery of the Missing Socks, my son's cat, Sugar, entered the room carrying a dark object in her mouth. Of course, I thought the worst, but when she dropped the object, I discovered that it was one lone sock. Upon closer inspection, I noted an entire trail of single socks, leading down to the laundry room. Sugar sat there with her sock on the floor, waiting for praise. "Good girl," I said and gave her a treat. Now, if I can only find a way for her to seek out matches to the socks and bring them up two by two, the way Noah intended.

As for me and my quest for socks on that Friday morning? I gave into the "close enough" theory and wore two red socks, one of which had blue polka dots. I am pretty sure that there is another pair exactly like it somewhere in the house.

No comments:

Post a Comment