Armstrong walked on the moon, and we invented the personal computer. Body organs are transplanted like perennials. But when will we discover what happens to socks in the washer? That’s a mystery worth solving. And instead of blasting people into space, what about inventing a washer that launders dirty socks and returns them in pairs? That’s how the government should spend our money.
In my parenting phase, I was a conscientious laundress. I’d pretreat spots and unravel folded socks, dropping them next to one another. Sometimes I told the washer what I was dropping into its belly. “Here are Rakel’s two princess socks. Please give extra attention to Andrea’s two rainbow socks. Tim’s twelve black socks.”
Socks were a big deal for my kids. When Rakel’s Big Bird sock disappeared in the washer, the pair she had her heart on wearing to nursery school, she was rightfully upset. When her four-year-old brain wouldn’t accept that it disappeared inside mommy’s washer, I attempted to explain the Bermuda Triangle enigma. She screamed even louder. Screaming back at her seemed like a bad plan, so I pulled out the ace card, “Honey, your sock went to live with Jesus.”
Considering how much time my washer and I spent together during childrearing decades, you might think we liked one another. We didn’t. It was a strained relationship at best. Most of the time, I got the silent treatment. But not always. For no reason, time and again, it frothed around the lid like a baby spitting up. Sometimes, it would start jumping left and right during the spin cycle, a rough resemblance to dancing the polka across my laundry room floor. It’s frightening to be home alone with young children and a large machine with a mind of its own. One day, it refused to open, a clear sign of another tantrum. I ignored it. But as the clean socks supply dwindled, I had to call a repairer.
I explained my problems and my Bermuda Triangle theory. He was having none of it. Men are too rational to think outside the machine. But women know that when it comes to socks disappearing, there is more than meets the eye.
“Don’t you think it ironic that one sock from different pairs disappears?” I ask Jack’s look-alike.
“The number of dirty socks you put in the machine will not change,” he says flatly. He looks like Jack Nicholas in the Shining. I don’t trust him. He knows something is going on with my washer. He just wants to be done to meet his mistress while his wife is home doing laundry.
“I took Cliff’s two socks from his gym bag and Jens’ mud-caked pair from his boots.” I hold up Cliff’s white sock, “See for yourself. Now there is only one.” Persisting, “There is something seriously wrong with my washer.” A washer repair woman would understand. She’d know washers have secret traps, holding hostage a treasure of mismated socks.
Mister Rational suggests I put each pair of socks in a small bag with snaps. “Ha!” I snort. “I already did that, and the bag comes back with one sock, and all snaps snapped.”
“I can look at the pump to see if they are there. It will be an additional cost.” Ten dollars later, he announces triumphantly, “The pump is clean.”
Reminiscing about those years of endless laundry, it’s clear that my sanity was walking a tight rope. Around the time my last child flew the coop, a new fashion arrived, wearing mismatched socks. My relationship with the washer has changed for the better. My washer is calmer. We fight less and rest more. I will not divorce it for a newer model. It is what it is.