I've Been Washing The Same Sock For 3 Years

I’ve Been Washing The Same Sock For 3 Years

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Courtesy of Caila Smith

Trigger warning: child loss 

A bereaved mother finds peace in her heartache wherever she may. Sometimes it’s found in summer sunsets across the streaky, orange hues that paint the night sky. Other times, it’s in the dimples worn by her surviving children, so uncanny to the one who is gone. And in the most bittersweet times, it’s witnessing messes that are made, and the realization of, Thank God, I still have them to clean up after.

I’ve felt tranquility in all of these moments and so much more in my three-year journey as a bereaved mother. But if I’m being honest, it’s not always the awe and majesty of the beauty, or even the reminders found in the messes, that brings me the peace that I seek. Sometimes it’s mundane, everyday moments, like the washing and re-washing of a sock in the silence of my 4’x6′ laundry room.

“We lost one of Lainey’s socks today, but here is the one she still had on,” I vividly recall my kids’ daycare provider saying before I slipped the sock into the pocket of my denim shorts. “Sorry about that!”

It took me nine months to find that lone sock, eight of those months coming after my 4-month-old daughter had passed, and I’d already rummaged through my entire house looking for bits of her. The lump in my pocket on that June morning at work felt an awful lot like a customer’s bill that had been stuffed in there. But as I was mid-conversation with one of my regular customers, to my surprise, I reached into my pocket and pulled out a tiny sock. My daughter’s sock.

You never think that a cheap sock could nearly bring you to your knees, but I had to excuse myself to the restroom, sit on the toilet, cover my mouth, and weep.

“Oh, please! It’s just a sock,” I remember replying to the daycare provider’s apologies.

It was just a sock. It is just a sock. But it’s also her sock, my Lainey’s sock, and it holds a new importance now that I’m living this life with still-unrecognizable days. Whenever I wore those shorts, which quickly became a new favorite, and felt the sadness creeping up from my stomach, rising to my chest and settling like a ball into my throat, I’d trace my fingers over the lump in my pocket for comfort.

Courtesy of Caila Smith

She was here. She is still yours. You are still hers. Breathe. 

I kept that damn sock in those denim pockets for as long as the washing machine would allow. And when it finally fell out, found in my laundry basket like a piece of gold amidst all of my other clothing, I gently placed it upon my window sill. It would see day after day, season to season, good days and bad days from that window. Until one day, something caused it to fall off and the cycle repeated itself again.

And again and again and again.

I wash this pink and blue sock when it falls into the hampers on the floor. And sometimes still, I close the laundry room door behind me, sit down, cover my mouth and weep on the floor.

It’s been three years, and it is my honor as her mother to wash, dry, and gently place my baby’s lone sock up on that window sill time after time until it is, too, lost and gone. It is the smallest gesture I can do in my grief, and if nothing else, it gives me peace. It is, perhaps, one of the only things I can do as her mother that makes me feel like her physical existence hasn’t been completely erased from this world… even though it has.

She is here in spirit, yes… she is carried in my spirit. But she is physically gone.

And as her mother, I guess I haven’t reached a point where I’m willfully ready to stop giving to her. I’m not ready to give up on doing this one normal thing a mother is supposed to do, especially when it’s causing no harm to me.

Martin Novak/Getty

I’m a bereaved mother, and my peace from the noise of my grief is found in the little things.

My calm looks like orange sunsets. It’s defined dimpled cheeks. Mega messes from my kids who are still living. And colorful butterflies nearly glued to my hip in the late spring. Among those, there are the unspoken others, like the lone sock that’s been without a user for three years, but still sees its fair share of washing and drying.

If I wanted to, and if I’m to be honest, I really could choose sadness for the rest of my days… but grief can be so bittersweet in the way that it uses the little things to spark the big ones: a sunset, dimple cheeks, maple syrup spills and a 0-6 months striped sock.

These simple moments, these little things, are what makes this life so damn beautiful.

When someone we love passes, I can promise you, it is never the extravagance of this life that is missed. It’s the normal. You crave your mundane, day-to-day normal. Believe it or not, I miss being able to wash bottles for my daughter. I carry an intense longing to hold her, while also knowing that it’s not a possibility. I would give up every last, good thing I have and own just to have her back.

I’m a bereaved mother, and my peace from the noise of my grief is found in the little things.

But I can’t, and I know that. So instead, I grab the joy in this life whenever I can. I wash this pink and blue sock when it falls into the hampers on the floor. And sometimes still, I close the laundry room door behind me, sit down, cover my mouth and weep on the floor.

But I also stand up. I leave that 4’x6′ space, and I choose to keep living.