We all have emotional baggage we carry with us throughout our lives. Some of us are lucky enough to cart our feelings around in Louis Vuitton, others have department store duffles or plastic bags from Longos. My luggage is a blue plastic basket, and lately it has become too emotionally weighted to lug around any longer. It doesn’t hold broken dreams, or lost loves, or resentment for my parents, but rather a huge tangled pile of mismatched, odd socks.
This thing was starting to get in the way of me living a full and rich life, and I knew I had to get rid of it. I had held onto it for years, ever hopeful of eliminating the need for it, but now it was time to let it go. I’m 42 years old, damn it. Part of maturing is realizing some of our dreams won’t be ever be fulfilled. I will never be a Pulitzer Prize winner, or live on the moon, or have perfect teeth. And I will never, ever, locate the elusive grey-toed Tender Tootsie sweat sock, boy size three; it just isn't going to happen.
Making my peace with this fact has not been easy. It was harder for me to throw away this part of our family's footwear history than it was some of my children’s toys. I’ve never had a problem getting rid of clutter, and my ability to be completely unsentimental has only grown stronger since we started getting TLC in our basic cable package. The show “Hoarders” has done wonders for the rest of my home, but for some reason I clung to these socks like the cat lady clung to her 250 pound souvenir bag of pet fur. These socks traced the growth of my family all the way from tiny white baby socks to my daughter’s $12 a pair “must haves,” to knee-high pantyhose from the decade when people still wore pantyhose.
I did have some reservations about pitching the whole bunch. I’m a bit of a catastrophic planner, and I knew that if I threw the basket out, there was the chance that socks would suddenly appear out of nowhere and likely in the strangest of places. I’d open the kitchen cupboards and find size two polka dot anklets, or a scrubby wool work sock clogging the toilet. They’d come out of hiding, in search of their disposed mates, vengeful and ready to settle scores.
And who would they hold responsible? ME. I was working myself into a panic attack as I started thinking about all the bad things that would happen should I upset the balance of laundry power.
My resolve was being tested. And besides, my optimism had paid off a few times. Every few months, an odd sock would appear and be reunited with its mate in fabric softener-scented bliss. They’d leave the purgatory of the sock basket and live happily ever after in the top drawer of an Ikea dresser. Sure, a lot of the time if they turned up at all they were now too small, or had holes in them, probably from dancing all night in a pair of cheap shoes at distant underground whiskey clubs. Still, I held out hope and knew they’d come home one day. I’d leave the laundry room door open so they could call out to their friends in the night. Yet, sadly, the lure of the underworld seemed to be winning, and I hadn’t made a match in almost a year.
So in the spirit of clean starts and new beginnings, I picked up the basket and threw the entire goddamn thing right into the trash.
Then I walked away quickly and ate an entire pan of cinnamon rolls.
I still have mixed emotions about it. On one hand, I was sad to be letting go of what seemed to be a symbol of optimism. In some way, holding onto these socks was a metaphor for hope. These socks COULD one day be matched. The possibility existed and the fact that I kept them all these years signified that on some level I was still an idealistic person. Was throwing them away an indication of my own burgeoning cynicism? Had I ceased to have hope in humanity, and more importantly, lost socks?
I steadied myself. This was ridiculous. I have no time for things that cause me undue stress, and quite frankly, the pressure of finding mates for these unpaired socks was something I was devoting a little too much time to. A few days ago my kids found me underneath the water heater wearing a flashlight head strap trying to lure out a fuzzy brown knee sock. I realized the time had come to let it go when what I pulled out was not, in fact, a sock, but our beloved missing hamster.
Rest in peace, missing argyles. (And also Nibs, our hamster.)
Only one of you will be missed.