Disclaimer: I promise I write about more than articles of clothing. My last post about pants and the sock incident detailed below just happened to occur in close proximity.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Do it. Just do it now, quick, before you lose your courage. I opened my eyes and steadied my hand. And did it.
I threw some yellow socks into the trash can. Some yellow socks I can’t even remember how long I’ve had. Some yellow socks with a hole in them.
It’s just a pair of socks. They likely came in a package with one or two other pairs, each pair costing a maximum of $3.50. The vibrancy of their color has probably faded over the years. There are persistent dark stains – dirt? – that no amount of Oxy Clean will vanquish. These socks have passed their prime, but I still felt a pang of sadness at having to retire them.
At a young age, we often learn to hold onto certain items as if they were the last oxygen tank in a tiny submersible trapped in a deep sea cavern. The results of a study from a few years back revealed that when an experimenter showed kids a “copying machine” that could clone their blanket, teddy bear or other object, four of the 22 kids who had a favorite object refused to have their object copied, and 13 kids wouldn’t take the identical object, which was in fact their own.
Bruce Hood, a University of Bristol professor who helped perform the study, told The Guardian, “We anthropomorphize objects, look at them almost as if they have feelings.”
But my socks. Do I think my socks are alive? No, although that sounds like a cool Goosebumps book plot. Still, I can’t deny that tossing them in the trash, seeing them swallowed among the used tissues and food wrappers made me feel a little melancholy. Almost like they were whispering goodbye, putting up no fight against my callous casting of them with the rest of the rubbish, preparing for the end of the week when I’ll suffocate them in the tied plastic bag, stuff that bag into a larger bag, dump that bag into my garbage can by the curb and vacate the premises before the waste company truck comes, spiriting away my dingy, holey yellow socks to the local landfill, where they’ll be dog-piled by immeasurable tons of other unwanted items and finally entombed beneath dirt and other substances.
Okay, maybe it does sound like I think my socks are alive and can feel, but it’s really the memories associated with my socks that get me. Professional organizer Laura Cambridge told the Washington Post that’s a common problem.
“Often we feel like if we get rid of that thing that reminds us of that time, then we’ll forget that memory,” Cambridge said.
Those yellow socks were my go-to running socks on a hot day because of their resistance to slippage and their thin fabric. I’ll wager they’ve been more miles with me than any other socks I own. They snuggled my feet that took uncertain steps around a new college campus. They let my toes stretch inside cute boots on a first date. They cushioned my dry heels drawn up under me on the cracked vinyl couch for the weekly Game of Thrones viewing with my roommates. They hugged my insoles while I hugged a friend goodbye. Then another friend. And another.
Those yellow socks have seen the deaths of three grandparents, the birth of a niece, three college dorms and two apartments. They’ve been to or through Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, New York, Louisiana, Michigan, Virginia, West Virginia, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, California, Nevada, Washington, a smattering of cities in England and several counties in my home of Kentucky.
Maybe it’s not so much that I believe my socks have feelings as I’ve had a lot of feelings in the time that those socks happened to be there.
You’ve served me well, yellow socks. Heaven help me when I have to get rid of a shirt.