Connections: The Disappearing

There are other, much more mysterious, ways to lose socks

It’s a cliché of personal-essay writing to complain about how everyday items disappear from the home — socks, for instance, and the bizarre frequency with which they are eaten by washing machines. Well, let me begin by assuring you that I never lose socks in the washing machine. Never! And I’ll tell you why. A woman named Susie gave my husband a helpful tip: All you have to do is safety pin the pairs together. We actually do this.

However, as it turns out, there are other, much more mysterious, ways to lose socks. Not long ago, for instance, I was standing next to my bed taking off a pair of pants while wearing socks but not shoes. As the pants fell to the floor, one sock fell with them. The sock on the other foot, however, just upped and disappeared. I looked inside the pant legs, around the floor, under the bed, and into every crevice of the wood frame of the bed (which is a four-poster), but it wasn’t to be found. I’ve never seen it again. This was toward the end of December. Have we got a gremlin?

My husband and I have a standing joke about the bread knife that flew the coop. I suppose a visiting member of the family, adult or child, could have borrowed it for some purpose or other and not only forgotten to bring it back but forgotten having done so. (We’ve asked everyone, of course. They think we’re going bonkers.) We refer to the bread knife whenever something else we are looking for can’t be found. “Maybe the sock is having a meeting with the bread knife in the attic,” we say. “Maybe the bread knife is vacationing on Tortola.”

And then there are the scissors. In our house, at least, scissors have a way of levitating and night-traveling that I find nearly occult. 

And how about our ballpoint pens? My husband buys black ballpoints in packs of six and replenishes the supply frequently, because he likes to have one at the ready at all times. He even takes one or two with him when he leaves the house. (I’m not sure if he carried them in a pocket-protector during college, but I wouldn’t put it past him.) Now, I will admit to taking one of these ballpoint pens to the office every now and again, but I absolutely refuse to take responsibility for the vast numbers that disappear around here. I’m not kidding. Dozens of them.

Then there is a pair of light blue pillowcases that match my favorite sheets. Where could they possibly be? I’ve looked in every feasible closet and on every possible shelf to no avail. If only one pillowcase was missing I might have more hope, but it is hard to imagine that two pillowcases could have gotten lodged behind, you know, some household appliance or piece of furniture, and the two disappeared at the same time. Did the dog bury them? Did one of my grandchildren make them into a skirt? The imagination runs wild. Maybe they have eloped.

Longtime readers of this column may recall my writing about a couple of large glass pantry jars of the sort popularized some years ago by Martha Stewart. I inherited them from my father, who, more than half a century ago, brought them home one at a time from breakfast meetings of his men’s club after they had been emptied of delicacies like dill pickles. You might say he recycled them. They are basically square, with top openings five or size inches around and lids of green metal. (And here I can’t resist adding that Martha Stewart’s jar lids look like plastic.) Well, you’ve guessed it: Two lids from my favorite old jars have gone off somewhere. They aren’t in the dishwasher, or on any pantry shelf. Did someone throw them away? Why would someone do that? 

You know how this will end, of course. These things will all be found someday . . . but it will only happen after we’ve given up and thrown away the matching sock, the matching sheets, and the glass part of the jars.