Missing In Action

If you grew up in the 80s, there are more than a few cultural touchstones which can bing back the nostalgia for you.

The U.S. hockey team beating the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics. The presidency of Ronald Reagan. The launch of MTV. Putting quarters on video games to call next game. Girls with very un-ironic big hair. Gas still costing less than a buck a gallon. I could go on and on.

Another of those very 80s things that we were aware of every day, and which seems to be non-existent here in the year 2019, was something we couldn’t miss, because it seemed to be on side of every milk carton we used when we filled up our cereal bowls before going to school: missing kid photos. You know what these are. Pictures of kids that were printed onto milk cartons, usually the half-gallon size, and often under an all-caps title like MISSING or HAVE YOU SEEN ME? There would be the kid’s age, height, hair color and a mention of where he was last seen. If the kid had been gone for a while, there may have two photos, one of him when he went missing, and one of what he might look like after a few years.

Anyone happen to see the mates to these? Of course not.

I can’t say such photos are stuck on the sides of milk cartons anymore. Then, again, in my house, we just go straight to the big one-gallon plastic jugs of milk. I don’t think that printing photos upon curved plastic containers is economically viable. And as far as the half-gallon cartons go, well, take a look at one the next time you are in the dairy aisle and see what’s on each of the four sides. The Missing Kid photo has gone the way of the dodo.

But, as a parent of two young girls, I can state for certain that there should be some kind of missing photos on those milk cartons. And what those photos should be of are kids socks.

If you know anything about kids it is that you probably spend too much money on their clothes. My wife will grill me about spending $5.99 a month on Hulu like I was going out every night and blowing the mortgage money on Indian casino slot machines. But, she won’t think twice about spending a hundred bucks or more on a box of oh-so-adorable tops, dresses and pants for our girls. Order enough of those hundred-dollar boxes of outfits and pretty soon, your closets will be bulging with so much stuff that your kids will barely, if ever use because they’ll outgrow everything before they can get to those tops at the bottom of their drawers.

But, one thing they will definitely use is socks.

One thing about socks that is great is that they are easy to load up on. Like beer, socks often come in the magical six pack. This is both convenient, and economical, because as anyone who has ever shopped at Costco, or spent any time in college scrounging up enough change for a six-pack of Keystone Light knows, buying in bulk lowers your average price point in an item by getting you more for your money. (And, in the case of that Keystone Light that was purchased ca, 1989, gets you a weak-beer buzz almost as fast as you can crack open the next can.)

But, we are here to talk about socks, and missing socks, in particular. Whenever my wife and I have found a multi-pack of kids socks for less than a dollar a pair, we act like we have just won the Super Bowl. As our daughters have gotten older (they are now 9 and 10, yet act like they are still 2 and 3 most of the time, especially when it comes to things like being in the same room together), their feet have gotten bigger, their tastes and fashion styles have begun to develop, and their socks have become a tad more expensive. I think the last time we bought the kids socks, we paid $12 for for a six-pack of feet covers that give off a tie-dyed vibe.

And it’s because the socks are new, and cost more, that makes losing them an even greater source of frustration that has me scratching my head and wondering about a few of my life choices.

We will get 12 new socks, the girls will wear them over a week, I’ll do the laundry, start folding things up and, inevitably, reach the end of the load with a several pairs of neatly folded socks…and one Lone Ranger who is missing his partner, Tonto. Because our kids apparently lack the gene gives human beings the ability to properly pick up after themselves, and leave every thing of theirs in every possible place except where those things actually belong, it becomes my job to go check the floor of their room, their dirty laundry hamper, and in their closets and beds for the missing culprit. And to make sure the sock hasn’t gone rogue due to my own idiocy, I will also scour the laundry room in case I dropped something behind the washer.

Unfortunately, 99% of the time, the sock will be as missing as Washington State’s defense was this year against Utah (which beat Wazzu 38-13), and UCLA (Which overcame a 32-point Wazzu lead to beat the Cougars 67-63). This is maddening for several reasons.

The first of which is that losing socks is financially wasteful. As a parent, when your have kids, you get used to taking money out of your wallet and, metaphorically, lighting it on fire. School fees. Sporting equipment. Food. These are all expenses that will leave you groaning when it comes to your kids.

But, you can often talk yourself into believing that your investment in your daughter’s newest set of cleats might lead to her becoming the Alex Morgan of the 2035 U.S. Women’s World Cup team. And I can tell you that when my kids turn their noses up at my homemade fried chicken, that just means another drumstick for me. (And that my kids might not really be mine if they aren’t tearing through a plate of fried chicken in front of them.)

In other words, with these things, you can at least, somehow, justify your expenses. But, when you fold a load of laundry, and you come up with a single sock, you might as well just throw that lone foot cover away right then and there. You can go ahead hang on to it and hope that its mate will show up in a load or two down the road. But, you know better.

Your money has just vanished along with that missing sock. And neither is finding its way back home again.

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