the overflowing laundry basket down on the table
in the dining hall of the nursing home. Five
nodding heads were startled out of the semi-napping,
old-lady-yapping, that usually marked the time
between lunch and tea at the Sunnyvale Seniors'
Home. Four friendly faces, topped in various
shades of white and grey, smiled agreeably at
Gwen. The fifth lady, Hilda, was neither grey,
nor agreeable. Her narrow, pinched features were
surrounded by a halo of pinky-orange, the faded
aftermath of the hairdresser's attempts to dye
her stubborn grey to a dark auburn red. Hilda
eyed Gwen's laundry basket suspiciously.
heck is that? she asked.
socks from my house, said Gwen. I
need you ladies to help me sort them, otherwise
my children will go to school barefoot tomorrow.
No children were in imminent danger of going
barefoot. But Gwen, the recreational therapist
for Sunnyvale Seniors' Home, always looked around
for new ideas to keep the residents active.
sorting socks, said Hilda. I think we
should play Bingo.
please Hilda, Gwen begged, think of
my poor barefoot children. They need your help.
We can play Bingo again tomorrow.
Two of the
ladies, both named Muriel, immediately bent to
the task of sorting and folding. Gwen cajoled
Hazel and Myrtle to pitch in and help too. The
four women were determined that no children
should go barefoot while they still drew breath.
Only Hilda remained defiant. She scowled and
refused to participate, the odd one out. Her
silent disapproval was interspersed with an
occasional mutter about slave labour. No one
listened to her complaints. Sorting socks was
better than another afternoon of losing at Bingo.
Hilda always won and the other ladies suspected
she was cheating.
Four sets of
stiff hands fumbled with the task until the
familiar rhythm of a long forgotten chore eased
their arthritic finger joints. Fold and tuck,
fold and tuck. A pair of pink baby socks brought
nostalgic smiles to wrinkled faces and unleashed
a flood of memories. Fold and tuck, fold and tuck.
At one point
Myrtle held up a black pair of man's dress socks.
She said, Gwen, your husband has big feet.
Myrtle turned to the other women and added,
You ladies know what that means don't you?
Gwen held her
shoes, said Myrtle, with a chuckle and a
sly smile at Gwen.
Fold and tuck,
fold and tuck, the pile of socks dwindled,
transformed into neat bundles of nylon, wool and
cotton. The last few 'oddest' of the odd socks
were paired up without regard to size or colour.
you ladies, said Gwen. She picked up the
basket without looking at Hilda.
Kiddo! What about these? said Hilda. Gwen
turned back just as Hilda lobbed a balled up pair
of tube socks over the table. The bundle bounced
off Gwen's chin and dribbled into the basket with
the other socks.
win, shouted Hilda, her voice raspy and
not fair, said Myrtle. Hilda always
wins. She must be cheating.