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Don't Offend the One Who Sorts Your Socks

01/01/2016 22:26 ● Published by Sandy Kauten

“Hey, where are my clean socks?” asked Wendy, my 13-year-old daughter.

“Check with your sisters,” I said.

“That’s two weeks in a row you gave THEM all the clean socks,” she complained.

“Maybe they deserve clean socks,” I said meaningfully. With four more-or-less full-grown females in the house, laundry-sorting is difficult. So I award clothing according to how I’m feeling about the various inmates at the moment of sorting.

Back-story: As a child I used to admire the huge taxidermied salmon that my Uncle Phil had caught in Alaska and hung on the wall of his den. It was more than two feet long with an orange belly, an open mouth and a hungry look. Uncle Phil loved that salmon, too, but when his time ran out, he couldn’t take it with him. So I inherited the fabulous fish and hung it up in the living room. On the 16th of last month, I found one of its fins lying on the floor. An investigation revealed that although no one else in the house likes Uncle Phil’s salmon, only one person had used it as a prop in making a silly video and dropped it a couple of times. And that person was Wendy.

What can you do with such a child except teach her an important life lesson? Namely, that children who go around breaking fins off their fathers’ prized fishes will find life to be an uphill struggle, especially when they are looking for clean socks.

Doing the laundry is my job and always has been. My father did the laundry before me and his father did the laundry before him. It’s a family tradition. I suspect there were Epstein men rinsing out loincloths in the Nile back when Pharaoh was making the Hebrews do his heavy lifting. 

I like the job because it’s easy and has some strategic value. Although it is possible to assassinate an inappropriate-but-delicate garment by disobeying the manufacturer’s instructions, generally the importance of doing the laundry is in the sorting. For one thing, it’s educational.

“What is this?!” I demanded one evening, holding up a scandalous black garment that looked like a pirate’s eye patch.

"That’s a thong,” said my 16-year-old daughter Sally.

“A thong?! What’re you, a stripper now?"

“Dad,” she said, “Everybody wears them. It’s so that if you put on something tight, you won’t have visible panty-lines. It’s either that, or go commando.”

“Commando?”

“Wearing no underwear. Don’t ask me why it’s called that; it just is.”

The word “commando” made me think of dangerous men with big knives strapped to their legs paddling a rubber boat through the darkness toward a hostile beach. I had always assumed that damp, bunching and chafing undershorts were their lot to endure. But now I wonder.

Anyhow, compared to “going commando” or letting passersby study the contours of her panties, Sally’s thong seemed sensible and chaste, almost Amish.

Sorting laundry also helps me keep track of the girls’ friendships. “Whose is this?” I asked, holding up a red T-shirt that advertises an ice-cream stand I’d never heard of.

“Erin’s,” said Sally.

"And this?” I asked, holding up a mysterious sweatshirt.

“Erin’s.”

The next item was a pair of varsity track & field sweatpants that had Erin’s last name printed across the seat. “Sally, why am I doing Erin’s laundry?”

“You don’t mind, do you?” she asked.

“Not at all; I’m just concerned about what she’s wearing right this minute; her entire wardrobe seems to be right here.”

"Don’t worry about it, Padre,” she said. “We just like to wear each other’s clothes. She has plenty of mine.”

That made me realize something. “Wendy,” I asked, “How come I’m not seeing anything of Jessica’s?”

“She tried to steal my boyfriend, so we’re not friends anymore,” said Wendy. “Her clothes are at her own house now.”

“Gee, I like Jessica,” I said. “If we give her your boyfriend, would she be your friend again?” Wendy scowled and I took that as a “no.”

As hinted earlier, laundry duty also has a certain quality-control aspect. While I sort, I review the suitability of the raiment, trying to remember the last time I’d seen it in action. Here’s Sally’s short T-shirt that invites the onlooker to “Rub my tummy for good luck.” And this tank top with a picture of Winnie the Pooh on it had looked cute on Wendy when she was a sixth-grader. Now it looks tight, scanty and sexy enough to scare Christopher Robin right out of his culottes. Well, my daughters’ loss will be the Salvation Army’s gain.

The Bible says we should clothe the naked, but sometimes a father’s more-pressing concern is for the semi-naked.

Rick can be reached at rickepstein@yahoo.com.

Parenting, Today, Today January 2016 issue

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