Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Lure of the Sock

There’s a man on the Sockknitters List who washes his handknit socks annually. No, that doesn’t mean he wears dirty socks—it means that he has a pair for every single day of the year, never repeating. Once a year, in a sort of Mythical Ceremony of the Soap, he washes 365 pairs of socks and hangs them up to dry. Then he meticulously matches them, folds them, and puts them away for the year to come. Some time last year he posted a photo of this on his blog (the 365 pairs hanging up, side by side, dripping contentedly in unison).

I do not have 365 pairs of handknit socks.

I have, maybe, a dozen pairs in constant rotation, not counting the ones that are strictly to keep my feet warm in bed. During the colder months of the year, which here in Atlanta consist of December, January, and occasionally part of February, I wear socks most days, with an exception every so often for those days when I want to pretend to a level of professionalism at work.

I’ve never had a job before where I could wear corduroys or wool slacks with socks most days. Before I came to Atlanta, I had a suited kind of professional life, and, of course, I was considerably … shall we say, younger. I wore panty hose and heels at least five days a week. (I don't think anyone wears panty hose any more--they've gone the way of the Playtex rubber girdle, thank god! It's Spanx or nothing, these days.)

Even when I worked as a real estate appraiser, I worked much of my career for a man who wanted a certain level of professionalism. He used to insist that his female appraisers (well, I was the only one at the time) wear a dress or skirt, sort of like the good old days when girls all wore skirts to school. (I tell this to my granddaughters every so often, just to frighten them with the horrors of the good old days, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and we had to run to escape from them wearing skirts, stockings with a garter belt, and stiletto heels.)

And, in those heady days of real estate appraisal, I climbed fences, jumped creeks, and crawled up muddy hills as I pursued lot lines. I even climbed down from the second floor deck of a townhouse once--the door to the inside had slammed behind me and locked me out there.

And weather was not a consideration—a lady wore a dress. My final day under those rigorous rules came the day I inspected an older house in Vienna, Virginia. As I wandered through the house, which I already knew would not meet any of the rather lax (in those days) Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac standards for a mortgage, I felt a tingling sort of a sensation on my legs. I ignored it but had one of those nagging suspicions that Something Was Not Right.

When I finally looked down, my legs were covered with teeming fleas. They had crossed the knees and were sprinting for ... well, never mind. Let's just say it looked like I was wearing black tights. I ran outside, grabbed my state-of-the-art 12 pound car phone attached to the dash, and called my boss with two messages: (1) if he wanted that house appraised, he better get his butt over there himself and (2) I’d be wearing slacks from that day forward. He arrived shortly thereafter, finding me standing in the street still shooing vermin off my legs, and acquiesced immediately to the new rules.

Anyway, back to the socks. I love my socks for many reasons: warmth and coziness, of course, but also the pleasure of looking down at my clogged foot and seeing what the fashionistas call “a pop of color” or maybe an intricate lacy pattern. But I could buy socks that gave me those things.

No, I knit socks not for warmth or beauty but for the pleasure of the process. The process of knitting itself, of course, which challenges the mind and stills it at the same time, and the process of seeing those stitches turn into a garment in a surprisingly short period of time. But the whole thing is hard for people who don’t knit, or who don’t knit socks, to understand.

So here’s the conversation I had on Monday, sitting in the cardiac surgery waiting room:

Me: (knitting along on a toe up sock, Opal yarn if it matters, magic loop)

Other Man: Wow! This surgery thing is taking a long time.

Me: Yup.

OM: There’s nothing to read here.

Me: Nope.

OM: I can’t stand this TV show and I can’t change the channel.

Me: Nope.

OM: What do they expect you to do here anyway?

Me: I couldn’t say.

OM: I can’t stand much more of this.

Me: Mmmmm …

OM: I mean I’m losing my mind.

Me: I can see that.

OM: What are you doing?

Me: Knitting.

OM: Yeah, my mother crocheted too.

Me: Uh, huh. This is knitting.

OM: Oh. What are you making?

Me: It’s a sock (holding it up).

OM: Oh. Can’t you buy those?

Me: Yes, but …

OM: I mean, they’re, what? About half a dozen pairs for five dollars?

Me: Probably, but …

OM: I bet your husband thinks you're crazy, right? You could buy socks at WalMart. Or won't he let you buy them?

Me: Well, no, actually he …

OM: I’d let my wife buy them. Actually, she could buy them with her own Social Security check. Isn't that amazing? She never worked a day in her life after we got married, just stayed home with the kids, and she gets a check. Damned socialist country!

Me: Yes, well, I …

OM: These people must be crazy! There’s NOTHING to do here while you wait. What are we supposed to do while we wait, huh?

Me: Uh, huh.

So, I ask you … who’s the crazy one?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This one was priceless! Just could picture the waiting room and the conversation (???) that you had.

Fun reading!