December 20, 2021

There comes a time in the life of every sock when it’s time to say goodbye.

I have thrown away a lot of socks. Still, it feels odd when you put them in the trash. You’re like, “Can’t this be recycled or reused, somehow?”

During the pandemic I began to darn my socks. I am not sure exactly why. Part of it was that you just couldn’t walk into The Bay and buy a pair of socks. Everything was locked down. Where was I supposed to get socks?

Also there was that lingering sense of impending doom. “Maybe none of us will ever find work again. Thus we can’t afford socks. Thus I should darn my socks.”

My mom darned a lot of socks when we were little. She must have learned it in the Netherlands. Actually I think she went to school to be a homemaker, in Amsterdam. They must have taught her how to darn. She would sit on the couch, by the fireplace, and just fully darn the heck out of all of our socks.

It always makes me think of Eleonor Rigby: “Father Mackenzie. Darning his socks in the night when there’s nobody there. What does he care?”

I sort of watched her darn socks but never tried it myself. Then as my socks started to fail last year I figured I’d give it a try. Like most things, I watched some videos on YouTube. One thing that came clear is that, unlike sewing, you don’t need to tie a knot in the end of your length of yarn when you are darning. You turn the sock inside-out, thread a needle, and pull some yarn through until a bit still remains. You go in one direction, then you cross-hatch. It turns out to be somewhat satisfying.

I have these wool socks, nothing that special, but they keep my feet warm, and it is winter.

That said, I have been darning them for over a year now. They are getting pretty raggedy and I think it might be time to call it.

But, after dinner tonight, as I walked around in the socks with holes in the heels, I considered my options. I could throw them out, as I had vowed to do. My wife had gone upstairs to run a bath. Our son, home from university, had gone out to walk the dogs. I had signed and stamped and licked most of the Christmas cards. What pressing thing did I have to do? And so I got out my sewing kit, with a spool of yarn that our daughter had left here, and I went at it.

(Incidentally, she is one step ahead of me: she actually knows how to knit. So instead of darning her old socks, she just knits new ones. That is next-level shit. I am not there. I once tried to knit a scarf and it turned out pretty sad. Funny, but sad-funny.)

Fact is, I had a bit of a rotten day today. Holding meetings via Zoom or Teams and trying to make things work with bosses and co-workers is really a sucky way to try to make a living. So I asked myself: “What’s preferable: sitting in soul-destroying Teams meetings to work things out, so you can earn money to buy new socks? Or simply forget the meetings, and repair your own socks?”

I decided to fix my socks. But I forgot to turn one inside-out before I darned it, so now it looks extra-special. Like a piece of art, I guess.

But when they fail again, I fear that this time I really, really, really need to throw them out. And perhaps find a new job.