I want to discuss an irksome problem that has plagued me throughout my adult life. It involves wearing socks, which all of us do in some form.
I am particularly fond of colorful designs that resemble little conversation starters. I wear socks dawn to dusk and even to bed some nights. I regularly wash them, of course. And at that point I inevitably lose one of the matched pair. Where do they go? Sometimes I find a damp sock stuck to the inside of the washer two loads later or a dusty sock or two behind the dryer. But mostly, one sock in a pairing just seems to disappear altogether.
I have a plastic box labeled "Homeless Sox" that houses a multitude of de-coupled socks of all colors and patterns. My husband thinks this problem is resolved if you buy just one kind and color. He has a multitude of thick, cotton, all-white socks and a few pair of dress-up blacks. Needless to say, none of his socks are homeless.
I reject that approach — with appreciation for its simplistic efficiency. But I have another idea. I have, at long last, found a creative way to deal with this problem. It came to me when I saw some colorful sock pairings for sale locally. They were boldly mismatched in a way that assured you would be able to tell your left foot from your right.
And I thought, "Voila, I can do that at home." I could dip into my nest of abandoned footwear and mix it up a little.
What do you think? Before you answer that, I looked this up, and in the Middle Ages it is recorded that royalty and wealthy landowners wore two socks of different colors that matched their attire, and it was seen as very fashionable.
Do not prejudge this idea because I have others. If you find wearing a crazily mismatched pair of socks is not your style, how about turning one of those solo socks into a hand puppet, and create an afternoon of happy and hilarious puppetry with your grandchildren. Or what about a sock jump rope?
I have been known to put uncooked rice or unpopped corn in a knotted sock, place it in the freezer and later use it as a cold pack for a sore knee or shoulder. My all-time best idea for turning homeless socks into tools for healthier aging is to put a tennis ball inside a sock and, while holding each end, stand against a wall and let the ball massage away lower back pain.
Numerous websites have even more creative solutions to the great sock dilemma. For example, www.wikihow.com suggests turning old socks into household helpers, such as dust rags and hard-to-reach cleaning sticks with the sock placed over a broom handle.
I still like my mix-and-mismatch fashion socks idea best. Every time I look down at my feet lately, I smile.
Sharon Johnson is a retired Oregon State University associate professor emeritus. Reach her at 541-261-2037 or Sharon@hmj.com.