THE FIRST glimmerings began with the blue sock crisis some weeks ago. I was rummaging around in my sock drawer looking for the nice pair of blue socks I bought a little while ago. No big deal, just a pair of blue socks. They weren't there. Not only was that pair not there, but all my blue socks had disappeared.
I thought that strange. Surely they hadn't all been washed and lost in the free fire zone we call the laundry room. I hadn't even worn the new pair yet. I was perplexed and a little exasperated, but it was also early in the morning, much too early for serious emotional surges.
So I settled for a pair of dark green socks, figuring no one would notice the difference, and went downstairs to take the kids to the school bus. I announced to the assembled throng that I was in the midst of a blue sock crisis. I announced it twice, in fact, because nobody seemed to 1) notice, or 2) care.
"Oh", said daughter Kelly after the second announcement, "the blue ones? These, you mean?" And she pulled up her pantleg, revealing blue socks that traveled to just below her kneecaps.
It was then I learned of the new fashion in girls' teen-age and subteen circles -- you might even call it the Father's Day look, except it happens every day at my house. Clothes you disappear in. The baggier the better. Nothing is too big; in fact, it's better if sweaters end just above the knee and hands are lost someplace in the endless folds of shirt sleeves. As you can imagine, this has gone far beyond blue socks. We're talking about T-shirts, sweatpants, long-sleeved shirts, short-sleeved shirts, sweaters. Nothing of mine is safe.
The extent of this became known a couple of days later when I was looking for a T-shirt. None of those, either. The only one in the drawer was from something called the Balboa Club and featured a drawing on the front depicting beaches, palm trees, crashing surf and the like, done in sharp blues, reds, yellows and pinks. It obviously would show through the dress shirt I would be wearing. An old Washington Post Metro editor, reacting to the ecletic dress of the '60s, said that newspaper people should dress so they wouldn't be embarrassed if asked to cover something at the White House. No way with this T-shirt.
But even that shirt would show up in a couple of days on one of my daughters. It was then that I recalled a lot of kid's traffic into our closet in the morning as they got ready for school. What earthly reason could they have for wanting enything of mine?
Because it's bigger? Because it's floppy? Because it hangs, or falls, or cloaks, or sags or bags? These kids are a little young to remember, much less emulate, "Annie Hall." I thumbed through a Seventeen magazine, but didn't see a one of my T-shirts on any of those girls. Nor, I am informed, do the television shows they watch feature such dress. I readily admit to a remarkable inability to understand the fashion industry, but I don't think they thought up this one. How much money could there be in large and extra-large Fruit of the Looms? So I asked the kids why the attraction.
"I don't know," said Kelly, who is 11. "It looks neat."
"What kind of question is that?" said Robyn, who just turned 14. This is the same kid who answered the telephone once when I was calling from the office: "Mom, it's the number one dirtball on the phone."
Brooke, who is 8, had no opinion. So far as I can see however, her only venture into this area is to clump around in my boots when she goes out to feed her rabbits in the morning.
Under a little closer questioning, the two older girls agreed that the larger clothes "were more comfortable."
I'm lukewarm on that, I certainly think they are more drafty than comfortable, and I don't think they look particularly neat unless one is drawn to the scarecrow look. It does make for confused claims on clothes. Here is a recent morning conversation between Robyn and Kelly concerning a short-sleeved blue shirt:
Robyn: "Kelly, that's my shirt you're wearing. You never asked permission."
Kelly: "Haw! She seems somehow drawn to this strange word . No way it's yours. I've had it in my drawer for forever. It's mine."
Upon closer inspection, I determined that the shirt was mine and said so. I could tell because the short sleeve ended a little below Kelly's elbow.
I see only two possible solutions to this problem. First, outwait it. I am told that there is nothing so volatile as kids' fashions, that this, too, shall pass, and the disparate items of my clothing now spread around our house (maybe other houses, too; kids trade) will begin to show up once again in my drawer.
Second, I could make my way gingerly into the laundry room and try to solve the eternal mysteries posed by the odd-sock box. Somehow, I guess I always knew we would have to pay for the miracle of "one size fits all."