By John Addyman
My wife is looking at me, disapprovingly.
“Socks,” she said. “It’s a start.”
In an upstairs closet in our house, hidden in a dark corner, is a laundry basket.
Full of socks.
That closet has become a repository for clothes, mostly pants, I will someday wear.
Someday when I’ve lost 20 pounds. Someday when flamingoes fly out of my nose.
My dear, deserving-of-sainthood wife, is making a point with the socks: they are just one thing we have too many of in our house. Correct that: it’s an example of one thing I have too many of.
“After the socks, the T-shirts,” she said.
“Then the pants. Oh please, God — the pants!” she said, her hands open in a heavenly appeal.
“What is the result of all of this?” I asked her. “The socks and the pants and the T-shirts aren’t hurting anything.”
“You have pants in that closet from 20 years before our teenaged grandchildren were born,” she argued. “I think there’s a possibility you have bell-bottoms in there.”
“You have corduroy pants on the left side of the closet,” she pointed out.
“Have you ever worn corduroy pants? No! Are you waiting for a flash fashion trend to suddenly appear, one that you’ve been prepared for since Jimmy Carter was president?”
She had me about the pants.
“What about the socks?” I asked.
My wife asked me to please haul that laundry basket out of the closet, go through all the socks and keep the ones I really need and put the rest in a bag for the local charity.
I started thinking about those socks. We were standing in the hallway. I peered into the closet at the laundry basket, it was piled way over the brim filled with white socks.
OK, I thought to myself, I do spend a lot of the year NOT wearing socks, but when I need a white sock, I need a white sock…you know?
“You have umpty-jillion more white socks than you need,” my wife said. This is one of the tragedies of being married for so long — your wife knows exactly what you’re thinking too much of the time. There’s no escape.
“How many socks do I need?’ I asked her.
She looks at me with a look I know all too well. If she would voice it, she’d be saying to me, “Did you dive to pick up something on the floor and hit your forehead hard on the table?”
Instead, she just kept staring at me. I got it: she wasn’t the one to answer that question. I had to fess up.
“Surely I don’t need a whole big laundry basket full of socks,” I said, figuring that if I owned the idea of the problem, a solution would not be far behind, or so my wife would think and leave me be.
“You’re not going to do anything about those socks, are you?” she said, arms crossed, tapping her foot as only a wife and mother and grandmother can do.
“Some of those socks are useful and important to me,” I offered as defense, “like when I shovel snow and put my boots on.”
“OK, that’s one pair of socks,” she said. “Maybe you need three pair for a big snowfall. Then what? How many pairs of socks do you think you have in there? 40? 50?”
It was clear I was not going to win the discussion.
Although I used different socks for different things, my wife was not going to be swayed.
One hour later, when she had gone downstairs, I pulled the laundry basket out of the closet and brought it into the den where I could go through it and watch a football game at the same time.
I found threadbare socks. I found orphaned socks. I found thermal socks. I found hunting socks I hadn’t had on my feet since I went hunting with my dad 64 years ago. I found socks I wore when my oldest daughter got stuck in a couple of feet of snow on a visit to Van Etten’s Tree Farm in Altamont, in 1985.
Yes, there were a lot of socks I didn’t need and perhaps someone else could use them.
My wife smiled a smile of satisfaction at me when she saw how many socks I’d removed. She beckoned to me with her finger as she backed into the bedroom.
I was about to be rewarded for my good deed, I was sure. This was my lucky day.
“Here’s your next project,” she said, pulling hard on a stuck dresser drawer.
That’s where my dress socks were.