Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, March 8, 2013

It's just darn interesting who repairs socks

The next installment of my ramblings about people I would like to have dinner with, dealing exclusively with comedians, will have to wait at least a week.

That little throw-away line at the beginning of last week’s essay, in which I lamented that nobody darns socks any more if one of them has a hole in the toe, has taken root.

So many people (three) have commented to me about it that I felt I should address the subject further.

One person (her desk is just outside my office door) even left a ball of darning yarn on my desk.

Larece left a nice little note with it, although she didn’t leave any darning needles.

Frankly, I will tell you this — at my age, I will be darned if I am going to begin repairing socks.

Which brings up an interesting, although oblique, point: Where did the expression, “Well I’ll be darned,” originate? Did it have anything to do with darning socks? It could have.

One thing is for sure. One never “damns” socks, as they do Yankees, so there was never a relative term such as, “Well I’ll be damned,” that related to anything as important as socks.

But I digress.

I told Larece I used to watch Grandma Sherman darn socks, a process during which she used a device that looked like a wooden egg which she would put inside the sock in order to – well, you can figure out why she put it inside the sock.

Larece said she uses the very same implement. It looks like a wooden egg with a handle on it. She calls it a “darning knobby.”

I doubt if she learned this trick from my grandmother, because she would be several years older than Larece were she alive today.

She was born Mabel Ferguson, back in 1870-something over around Wilson’s Mill and Chagrin River roads.

It was probably after she married into the Sherman clan that she began darning socks. But life wasn’t all darning and other indentured servitude, because she also started baking elderberry pies, and if you’ve never had a slice of Grandma Sherman’s elderberry pie, you haven’t, as they say, lived.

Well, grandma had her wooden egg and Larece has hers, but earlier in the day when Larece told me about her egg, Skip Murfey told me how his mother darned socks. Maybe it was his grandmother. I’m sure it wasn’t his wife, because I know her, and I would not accuse her of darning one of Skip’s socks. He can afford to go over to T.J Maxx and buy a new pair of socks.

But Skip told me his mother used – get ready for this! –  a light bulb. I would be in fear of breaking the bulb. It would be very difficult to break a wooden egg, but a light bulb?

If we did that, one of our two darling cats would probably knock it onto the floor and break it. Then what would we darn socks with?

Skip didn’t tell me what wattage his mother used, but I presume it was around 100, or at least 60.

I’ll tell you this: With those new curly light bulbs Washington is shoving down our throats, darners will be forced to use wooden eggs, because there won’t be any more round light bulbs.

I have never counted my socks, and I don’t intend to, but I would guess I have two dozen pairs with a hole in the toe of one sock. Do you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to throw out all of the socks with a hole in one, except the ones I play golf in, and wear the remaining socks without holes.

I told Larece about this plan, and she wondered aloud if I would wear socks that are mismatched.
And I replied: “Sure, why not?”

Does anyone check to see if a gentleman’s socks match? At least, not yet. Who knows what Washington might come up with? Socks Police would not surprise me, the way things are going.

This would be a great topic for debate in the halls of Congress, because the Republicans and the Democrats would never agree on it.

Unless, of course, we get a Socks Tsar in the administration.

Nothing would surprise me.

Until then, you are going to have to devise your own way of finding out if my socks match.

Didn’t Fats Waller have a record called, “Your Socks Don’t Match?”

He was way ahead of his time.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Collins,
Is there a real person named Grandma Sherman ? If so, is there a recipe handy for her Elderberry Pie ?
My Hungarian grandmother made the best Elderberry pie but of course that was a long long time ago. If I could only go back I would have payed more attention to her "homemade" Hungarian cooking....and her darning of Grandpa's socks between her many chores. Great memories !

March 10, 2013 at 6:56 AM 

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