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Suburban Island

The Missing Shirt and the Runaway Socks
Saturday, Feb. 26, 2005, 7:40 p.m.

QUESTION: What socks?

WHAT I LEARNED: Laundry is more easily misplaced than one may imagine.

There is a mystery that all mothers face in the running of the standard household. Itís the mystery I like to call the mystery of the missing shirt and the runaway socks. Itís a runaway hit at our house; playing regularly night and day to a standing room only audience. It is usually accompanied by whining, looking about the house aimlessly for the garment in question, and grilling other family members for clues as to its whereabouts.

I believe this mystery is a problem closely related to the stack-o-laundry phenomenon, which is the bane of many a home. Itís a regular high point on the home organization show, Clean Sweep. As the camera pans in for a closeup of the stack-o-laundry all clean and just sitting and waiting to be put away, I feel a twinge of recognition. Another poor woman with a stack-o-laundry. Then I feel a little smidge relieved - another poor woman with a stack-o-laundry. Thank Heaven.

The result of the missing laundry mystery is that one can never find what one needs when one needs it. For instance, I have notice that no matter how many pairs of socks I buy, I can rarely find a matching set to wear. The result is shoes with no socks on winter day trips to the grocery. This is a desperate and uncomfortable measure, which seriously undermines any dignity I might strive towards. Another measure that is more comfortable but just as desperate looking is the sock stealing approach. Thatís when I go into my sonís dresser and steal some of his white socks. Yeah, that would be me in the black jeans with the white socks showing when I bend down at the store to grab that carton of Diet Coke. At least my feet are warm, thank you.

I am sure that my son doesnít appreciate it much either, since I then push him into the missing sock category as well. So sad. These mysteries affect us all.

Yesterday, my daughterís eyes misted over as she enquired about a favorite long-sleeved white shirt. Since my husband often brings up the laundry, it is a toss up whose room it might actually be in at this point Ė lost, sadly sighing, and waiting to be discovered and worn out into the world again. Another weekend at home for the white shirt seems to be likely, however. I donít have a clue where it is. Nobody does.

I would think that when laundry comes upstairs from the laundry room it might go to each personís bedroom Ė places neatly and lovingly on each personís still unmade bed. Not so. Often the clothes are put in momís stack-o-laundry - the mega-pile of clean clothes instead. Evidently mom's mega-pile of clean clothes is the first and only stop on the laundryís long journey home. I am always surprised at whose stuff turns up in this always-replenished mega-pile of clothing and why I have a mega-pile in the first place. I thought it would just be my things in the stack but I guess when my husband deposits all this nice clean laundry upstairs he perceives his duty as done when it hits the pile. Just when I think it is all sorted out and it finally just my stuff, I discover a darling little t-shirt that would be perfect for me if I were about 25 years younger but obviously really belongs to my daughter, or a pair of dorm pants clearly the property of my son that are now totally out of season. The pile is a bit of a black hole. All apparel beware!

When I came home from Texas I went upstairs and beheld the pile afresh. It was Texas big. It needs some Texas-style action to cut it back down to size. Thereís going to be some clothing reunions going on this weekend. Who knows what Iíll find. Maybe even that favorite white shirt will see the light of day.

Now if I only had a bunch of Texas-sized closets to put this stuff away in my stack-o-laundry problem would be history.

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