When I was a kid, it seemed like my brother always had holes in his socks, and they were always dirty. My mother couldn’t keep him in clean socks. He was always outside playing in the dirt, or sliding into the bases when he played baseball. He built castles in the sand at the beach and when he played Little League ball, he always came home sweaty and grimy.
We grew up during a time when darning socks was becoming old school, but still common. My mother seemed to be the only one who cared that my brother’s socks had holes and needed to be darned. She didn’t like throwing anything out, especially socks that were still usable. Sometimes I watched my mother darn socks. She’d sit at the kitchen table, the light from the copper chandelier folding her into its warmth. Her sewing kit sat close by on the floor, next to the fireplace. She looked peaceful, in a world I couldn’t enter.
At one point, I wanted to learn to darn socks like my mother, but when I couldn’t weave the threading together, I quit. It was easier to let my mother do the darning. She knew what she was doing.
Nowadays, people throw old, worn out socks away, even without holes.
Like everything else in the world, our socks get grungy, and after a while nothing can bring them back, no matter how many times they’ve been cleaned.
Mine turned a light gray. When they began to fray, I threw them out. My socks never ended up with holes, but they did wear out when it came to color. They were either grayish or yellowed. Sometimes pink from a red blouse accidently thrown in the mix of whites.
Furthermore, most people don’t even know what darning is. It’s a thing of the past, like making handmade lace.
Yet, everyone’s socks carries a story and a memory about who wears them.
Did the late great ballplayer, Shoeless Joe wear socks during a game? Running from base to base in the dirt was easier for him without socks, especially during the heat of the summer. His toes could grab into the dirt and launch him that much farther toward the next base.
Today’s Major League and Little League players all wear socks when they play ball. For the Little Leaguer especially, their feet can sweat too much without socks, and they risk getting athlete’s foot. Then they have to go to the doctor because their feet itch and peel and swell and get stinky.
And, who wants that?
When I was in college, my philosophy professor tended to slide his feet out of his loafers at the beginning of each class. In one class I saw a hole in one of his socks. His big toe was peeking out, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. It wasn’t all that important, and neither was the fact that he took his shoes off at the beginning of every class. It was just something he did.
I’ll bet his wife didn’t like washing his socks, assuming she did the laundry. They had a toddler and a new baby in those days. She stayed home, took care of the kids while he taught Philosophy and Ethics at our local university. Maybe he shared household responsibilities on the weekend. He was that sort of guy.
New age and all that.
When I was married I also had small kids like the professor and his wife. I didn’t work outside of the home either. My husband was a mason contractor. He built fireplaces and walls and pathways out of bricks or stone. He enjoyed working with stone and created new patterns as he let the stones fall into place. He worked for himself but wasn’t consistent about getting work. So sometimes the household bills didn’t get paid. Sometimes I threatened to leave, but he didn’t believe me. He thought I was there for life, the way our parents were. And then one day, I packed up my three boys and left. A few years later, my husband quit the masonry business and became a metal and wood sculptor.
He still had money issues.
I don’t know if the professor’s wife ever threatened to leave. She didn’t have the same kind of life as I had. I think she was the sort of person who would continue to wash his socks in spite of the holes, in spite of his worn out loafers. And, when she was ready to go back to work, he would pick up the slack.
They were partners. New age and all that.
Will I ever wash someone else’s socks again? I wonder about that.
Actually, I wonder about a lot of things lately. I wonder about the state of the world, climate change, the country and the divisive politics we live with, but I don’t wonder if I’ll ever darn a sock because those days are over and will never return.
Some things you can be sure of like death and taxes, but some things simply disappear when it’s their time to go. Like darning socks. Or creating handmade lace. Or marriages that have ended.