During mindless TV watching, the family often gathers around a wicker basket of socks: a laundered, sweet-smelling pool of white cotton that used to fend off blisters during morning jogs and afternoon soccer practices. Inter-dispersed among the white are splatterings of black, navy, and brown, ribbed in a more formal demeanor that suit well under a pair of trousers, splashes of colorful stripes and polka dots belonging mostly to the uninhibited 12-and-under crowd. The youngsters grab for the color straight away, lining up the lonely singles on their pretzel-twisted thighs, their knees jutting in polar opposite directions suggesting an aboriginal means of sitting. They shout gleefully when a match is made, and painstakingly roll them into a whole with curved trembling fingers, and create piles designated for the top drawers of bureaus flanking the walls of each private space on the second floor of the center hall colonial.
Cooperatively, they compare their collections and make more matches and more rolls, until the basket is emptied, and the singles return to the pot to await another day of reunions. There is the inevitable lament over the pink single Smart Wool model, the one that belongs to a long-lost $12 pair that was purchased three years ago at an expensive downtown outdoor store. It once protected an 10-year old foot awaiting the heat to rise from 100 year-old radiators with high tech, moisture wicking ability, but now is contemplated as base material for a folk-art pig puppet with button nostrils and hand-stitched eyes, flanked by a pipe cleaner curlicued tail that will never be attached with structural integrity.
During a future laundry room visit, a pink flash will enter the retinas of the laundress from the periphery, from between the washer and the omniscient drier: a Smart Wool tube that lay prostrate to those with neuro-motor ability. Hairy with dust and stained with dried blue laundry detergent, a hand reaches in between a tight abyss as its owner contemplates human error, assumes responsibility for all the wrong doings of the drier, and dreams of the female version of a folklore pig sock puppet. For the conscious choices of the human race have irrevocably changed its future, and the sock will instead aimlessly amuse the 12-and-under crowd rather than warm their feet.
Weeks more of laundry will bring more loss: single socks that will forlornly top piles next to underwear, cherries on top of a cupcake tower of fluffed and folded towels, T-shirts, jeans, khaki slacks and school uniforms. They will slowly fill the same wicker basket, a penalty box of evidence that a mysterious universal force of the dryer that somehow vaporizes these small swaths of material into different, invisible form. They justify the loss as an inconceivable byproduct of a God-like inevitability, a work that no earth-dwelling individual could completely comprehend, accept their part in the play out of time, then turn to the task of ensuring little pairs of feet are appropriately protected and warm, with mismatched pairs, darned holes or warm breath gently blown deliberately through cupped, protective hands.