I’ve always paired socks. I know some people that just keep clean socks in a basket and the family lives out of that basket, pairing as they go. Or not pairing, just grabbing two socks, all willy nilly and unmatchy. We are a family that pairs our socks.
I’ve got a laundry basket next to the machine. As the clean laundry comes out of the dryer, socks go into a separate basket. It is from that basket that the pairing begins. If we cannot complete a pair, we just keep the singleton in the basket. Forever. I’m always confident that the partner will show up. Eternally optimistic and perpetually hopeful, that’s me.
Some days, the pairing goes easily. I’ve got Harrison, his socks pair smoothly because he religiously pulls off his socks next to the laundry chute. He never takes them off crookedly; he pulls them off swiftly “the right way” and pitches them down in a rapid-fire, no-nonsense style. His socks are always quickly matched and returned promptly. He has a purposeful life, that boy. Driven. And at 14, accomplished. Let’s get things right the first time because there are chores to finish, homework to complete, practices to attend, goals to conquer, and of course, food to eat.
And then there is Haley, 12. I don’t know what style she uses to remove her socks, but they are always twisted into little-bitty-inside-out balls. They rarely pair quickly. Sometimes it will be days before I’ve got a match, sometimes it is weeks down the road.
She wears socks to bed, then probably peels them off during her restless sleep leaving one sock buried under the sheets or between the wall and the bed. Haley lives large and loud. With a guitar in hand, there are songs to be written, drawings to sketch because future album covers must be planned now. And when she’s not making music, she has books to read, stacks of them. Stacks and stacks and stacks of them. She’ll read three at time. Horror, romance, and a classic, alternating, positioned to turn the page. My dear daughter, forever ready for the next thing.
And then there are the socks that just will never be paired. What started as a mission, pairing socks because they belong in pairs, has become memory lane partnered with forward thinking. I’ve got one of Travis’ socks from the summer of 2007 in the basket, the last year he worked at Camp Rokilio as a counselor. One of his uniform socks remains a singleton. I’ll never find the partner, I know that. But when my now 26 year old is an adult and in the process of purchasing his own home, it feels good to look at his single sock.
He’s come a long way, that adult child of mine, and looking at that one sock makes me smile every time I see it. That lone sock is about hope. No longer hope about finding that sock’s pair but hope that his life is still full of fun and the spontaneity that life as a camp counselor had to offer.
And my dear Madeleine, Travis’ twin; two socks of hers remain in my basket. January of 2016 will mark the 20th anniversary of her departure. Somehow departure sounds better than death. I’ve got a navy blue knee sock of hers, a singleton, of course. Although her nurses tended to the majority of her needs, I typically did her laundry. Her needs were medical, exhaustive and extensive; the needs for my maternal offerings were minimal. But laundry? I’m a laundry rock star. I looked forward to doing her laundry, proudly removing stubborn gastro-intestinal stains.
My single sock stash also contains a small, sparkly green ankle sock with a holiday plaid bow. It’s from her final Christmas with us. It went with her holiday plaid skirt and her very grown-up green silk blouse. It is these two single socks that bring me the most hope. Hope that I never forget the simple things in life, hope that I always find unique beauty, and hope that I see Madeleine’s life as retrospective bits and pieces of history woven into today.
And I hope that someday, Harrison plans some spontaneous and completely safe fun into his goal-driven life.
And further hope that someday, Haley figures out how to get her socks down the laundry chute, turned the right way, in proper pairs. I know is too short to plan how to take your socks off, I know this. There are songs to be written, books to be read, sketches to be drawn.
Life is short, socks can wait.