Friday, January 28, 2011

The Bottom of the Pile

  The sock basket originated as a place to keep clean socks that emerged from the laundry without a mate. The idea being that the basket would be self cleaning, with complete faith those wayward mates would eventually find their way back. It fit nicely in the bottom of my grandfather’s chifferobe.  After years of consistent donations, the overflowing sock basket became the base for a much larger sock box, which became almost invisible underneath the mound of socks piled upon it. Once is awhile, I did sort through the top of the pile to look for mates before I added the newest batch. It has been a good place to find socks to wear while doing lawn work, painting or to take to camp. I slept well at night, knowing if I’d ever had an urge to make sock puppets with 70 or 80 of the neighbor kids, I would have been covered. When it came to stray socks, better safe than sorry was my motto. 

  Over the past few months we have been remodeling the upstairs bathrooms, which precipitated the process of cleaning out linen closets and bathroom drawers. My pack rat tendencies exposed for all to see, at least all the contractors who traipsed through my upstairs, inspired me to continue the “cleaning out” process, one sock pile at a time. Actually, when I pulled four packages of diapers out of my bathroom linen closet, much to my contractors chagrin, I was shamed into admitting that with my youngest in high school I probably didn’t need them anymore.

  Yesterday, I had several pages of homework tackle for Spanish, so the urge to clean out the sock box became overwhelming. Once overturned, the pile of socks on the floor was impressive. Most people would have chucked the whole thing, but not having overcome my propensity to save things “just in case I might need them someday”, I looked at every sock. Some people look at photos when they feel sentimental. I found my retreat into nostalgia while wading through these lonely cast-aways.

 Depicted in a collage of mis-matched foot wear, the story of my parenting years lay in a huge mound on the floor. After 18 years of parochial schooling, the predominant sock color was white. For the girls, the anklets that evolved into cuff-less and finally footies so small they didn’t appear to be able to cover even half of a foot. There were toe socks, knee socks, festive holiday socks and athletic socks. Allie’s cross country years in high school left behind the mates of some rather pricey running socks. For the boys - crew socks, scout socks, baseball, soccer and winter hiking socks told the story of their years of grade school and high school sports and scouting. My husband and I had our own contributions: the mystery of the stray sock does not discriminate. Single remnants of days gone by, their usefulness forgotten amidst the debris, now had my full attention.

  In all I found about 30 usable matched pairs, not bad for an hours work. There were fifteen or so pairs that were too small, but in good shape, so they went in the donation pile. I threw out a stuffed kitchen trash bag full, and still had a respectably full sock box to rummage through – just in case. In the bottom I tucked the single baby socks which evoked vivid memories: the tiny Osh Gosh sock with little bears that matched a baby outfit of Peter’s. I can remember him so clearly in that outfit, picking him up from the changing table, carrying him around the house. It always felt so natural to have a child in my arms. I’ve grown accustomed to the emptiness, but it is difficult to describe that vague sense of longing. Not to start again, or to have another child, but to have those moments back. The moments when you could make everything right, when just seeing someone else’s face, hearing their voice, was enough to complete you.

 As my children move into adulthood, I can relate on many levels to the stray sock. I still have value and the potential for wear, but my function has changed. They feel more secure knowing I am there, but prefer to leave me in the bottom of the closet sometimes. They still need me, they just don’t need me in the same way anymore. I know that’s as it should be, so I find my comfort level somewhere in the pile of things discarded in youth, and I wait. They will need me in other ways, on more adult terms, and I will be there.

 On our own journey, God waits for us. We travel through the path of faith, at times fully equipped and at times, missing a sock. Who knows where it gets off to. We just get away from our prayer time, our faith life feels stale and we limp away on one foot, not even aware we are half dressed. Often, we head out to the store to purchase a replacement, a new job, new hairstyle, something to make us feel back on track - while God waits, descending farther from sight in the bottom of the sock box with our memories and life experience blocking Him from view.  Then one day, the urge strikes and we dive into the pile, to look for something we’ve misplaced. We sift through the pile, and there He is –waiting.


  1. Anne,
    I enjoyed meeting you yesterday, and I will check in from time to time to read your reflections. I like the thought of God at the bottom of the stray sock basket. Great metaphor...may have to borrow it sometime(with your permission of course!)
    Kim (from the swim meet)

  2. ANNE! I must have misspelled your last name a billion times trying to find you on this thing. Then I went to and looked under our old class members link and found your name. Anything handed to me at work is instantly lost, but I'm glad I found your blog, which by the way, is really beautiful. I love your writing.