There was a time, in the Land of Barnhill, when socks flowed in abundance. They heaped and flowered and multiplied. They scattered across the wide family room floor like so much snow. We were buried in socks, awash in socks. Our cup of socks raneth over.
This sounds like an exaggeration, I know, but I swear it’s the truth. And what I am about to present, dear readers, is a cautionary tale.
The Barnhills, despite their sockish abundance – or perhaps because of it – were not satisfied.
“What care I,” they said sniffily, “for ten socks, or one hundred socks, or one thousand times one thousand socks. If they are not matched, I have nothing.”
They were not satisfied to wear mismatched socks to school or to meetings or to soccer games. They turned their noses at the wooly warmth in clashing colors offering itself each day to warm their shivering toes.
“If you want matching socks,” their mother told them, “go dig through the stupid sock pile and find them yourself.” Their mother did not, despite reports to the contrary, mutter, “Mister and Miss Complainypants,” but she certainly thought it.
And so the Barnhill children would howl with rage and agony and woe. And then they would stomp down the stairs and find the overflowing sock basket in the basement family room and dig and dig and dig until a match was found. And the socks were happy to oblige.
This went on for several months. And the sock basket grew. It grew, and it grew, and it grew. It went from mound to hillock to bluff to mountain. It had geological features – faults and fissures and outcroppings – that were studied by scientists from around the world. It was featured in documentaries, and folk songs, and fine art. It developed its own weather system. REI rolled out an entire line special shoes designed specifically for the sock mountain’s unique terrain. Brusque European men with mukluks and rucksacks, flanked by packs of well-paid Sherpas, arrived by the dozens to journey into our basement and make the death-defying climb of the storied Mount Sock, conquering it like young bull on its first night in the herd, and leaving a mess in their wake.
And honestly? It was annoying.
“That’s it,” the mother said.
And she poured herself a glass of wine and set up a marathon viewing of “Brooklyn 99”, and set up sacks for each member of the family, and, like the Miller’s Daughter spinning straw into gold (or, I guess, paying Rumpelstiltskin for spinning her straw into gold) quietly prayed for strength in the face of a most insurmountable task.
And she folded into the long night, and well into the morning. And the sock mountain remained, and still she folded. The sun climbed high in the sky and sank into the evening, and still she folded. Days turned into weeks turned into months turned into a year. Finally, after a year and a day, the last sock was folded, and she placed heaping sacks of folded socks on each bed of her beloved family.
“Here,” she said. “Folded socks. Matching socks. Coordinating colors for your sensitive arches and your tough heels. Darned toe beds to keep each adorable little piggie nice and warm. Each loop of yarn is proof of my love to you.”
And the family was happy. For a little while. But lo and behold, the folded socks, once so numerous that the drawers groaned each time they tried to close them, began to dwindle. The drawers began to echo with empty spaces. And slowly but surely, the socks began to disappear. One after another after another, until they vanished altogether.
The children searched over hill and vale. They looked under beds and in the covers. They looked behind toilets and inside grates. They even looked in the refrigerator. But it was no use. There was not a sock – matched or single – to be seen.
Because these were no ordinary socks. These were magic socks. And the magic well from which all socks did flow was irreparably blocked. And there would be no mountain and no bluff and no hillock and no mound. Indeed, even the stinky socks left by the bed would disappear by morning.
“Where are the socks,” wailed the children.
“I have no idea,” the mother said. “I just did all the laundry. AND I JUST FOLDED LIKE NINE MILLION SOCKS FOR YOU.”
It didn’t matter. The masses of socks were gone forever.
And yea, did the children weep and wail and gnash their teeth.
And, if you listen very carefully, you can hear their toes shivering.