Week Three: “A Tale of Two Socks”

“Come in here, honey!  I have something to show you!”

Gabby was calling me from the playroom.  Her voice was excited, like she had just received a letter from a long lost friend or read an article proclaiming bowling shoes were back in style.  I immediately got up to see what all the hubbub was about.

“Look what I have for you!”

When I rounded the corner, her leg was extended toward me, and she was waving her toes in my face.  With no bowling shoe attached.  And no letter.

Her foot was covered with a paper-thin sock with a gargantuan hole.  It looked like it was 10cm dilated, due to give birth to a bouncing baby heel at any moment.

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“I need you to fix my sock.”

“I don’t think so.”

“But honey, you said that you would repair at least one item of clothing this year – maybe even darn a sock.  So here’s your chance.”

“But I’ve never darned a sock before.  I gotta’ start small.  And look at that thing!  That’s like asking the school nurse to do open heart surgery.”

“You gotta’ learn somehow.”

And so started the week.  I haven’t yet attempted the sock repair.  I’m still protesting.  When we say one of our family mission promises is to “own what we have,” that means we need to repair things as they break – not resurrect them from the grave.  Gabby has not upheld her end of the bargain on this one.  This sock looks like it was worn by Wilma Rudolph when she won the 100m gold in the 1960 Olympics.  The hole developed shortly thereafter.  At the medal ceremony.

But Gabby is right.  I will darn a sock this year.  I don’t even know what darning entails.  I thought it was just sewing up holes in socks, but my dad informs me that he used to watch his mother darn socks while she watched Lawrence Welk on TV.  It involved weaving thread together to essentially build a patch in a hole.  This sounds difficult, but it was a necessary evil in his house.  With twelve kids, you didn’t have the luxury of buying anything you wanted. He had to fight for a seat at the dinner table.   To this day, my father has never had his own room.  Though, I’d bet my baseball card collection that my mom has been more than willing to give him his own wing of the house on occasion.

Me?  I’m far more fortunate.  I want for nothing.  It may be a while before I attempt to darn a sock, and for that, I should be grateful.  My underwear drawer is nearly overflowing with matched pairs.  Well over twenty of ‘em without a hole.

Unfortunately, none of them made it into my suitcase on my three-day business trip this week.

Sure, Gabby had given me her mental checklist as I was leaving the house.

“I love you.  Do you have everything?  Your belt?  Your computer?  Underwear?  Socks?  Pants?…”

This list goes on and on, but I argue that she’s almost too good at reminding me.  It’s such a part of my business trip process that the instant she starts running through the list, my ears transform her voice into a muffled trombone sound akin to Charlie Brown’s teacher.  It’s too familiar.  I just don’t hear it.

Fast-forward six hours.  There I was, outside of Omaha, ruffling through my suitcase as if I had lost my passport, looking for a three pair of dress socks that were still in Tennessee.

My first thought was, “It’s only 8:30pm.  I still have time to run by Target and buy some socks.”

Then I remembered our “Year without A Purchase” rule that states that, even though they are a “wear item,” we can’t buy clothes unless we don’t have any.  This is a test!

As I looked down at my feet, I had to admit that my socks hadn’t disintegrated.  They were perfectly fine.  Save for the fact that they smelled like the dirty laundry basket on a Deadliest Catch crab boat.  And I’ll be damned if I am going to bail out of this year long challenge in mid-January!

So I did what my grandmother would have done.  I filled the sink with shampoo and got to scrubbing.  It only took three minutes and 300 calories of elbow grease to eradicate the stink.  But the ambient temperature in my room was chilly, and I knew the socks weren’t going to dry by morning.

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* The wash cycle

So I grabbed the hair dryer.

I felt a bit foolish styling my socks with a Vidal Sassoon 1500 Watt blaster.  So, in an attempt to make it a more masculine activity, I turned on SportsCenter.

Didn’t help.

Then, I noticed the heating vent.  I cranked up the air temperature in my room to 77 degrees.  The heater kicked on.  I wedged my socks into the grates and waited.   A half-hour later, sweat was beading on my upper lip.  I went to check the socks and they were dry on one side.  Another thirty minutes and I had some fresh kicks.

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* the dry cycle.  Set to “delicates”

Sure, I probably wasted $15 worth of the hotel’s energy and two tiny bottles of shampoo over three days.  But this year isn’t about money.  It’s about stuff.  And, as I sit in seat 3A on my way home from Omaha, I am wearing the same well-worn socks I had on when I first left my house.

Wait.

Is that a hole I feel?

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