In my half-South African, half-Russian family, the common rule was it’s always someone else’s fault. If something went missing, you didn’t lose it. It must have been stolen. The most often misplaced items were small, black, ankle-high socks. All pairs were divided equally between the South African members and the Russian members of my family. We wore them daily, washed them daily, and lost them daily. This caused an epidemic of missing socks.
My Russian mother possessed the most pairs of this precious commodity. As was accustomed to Russian heritage, according to her, possessiveness and territoriality reigned supreme, and she was very possessive and territorial about her small, black, ankle-high socks.
My South African father possessed the second most pairs. As his feet were far larger than the rest of the household’s, he never had a problem keeping track of his share. So, he convinced his South African kin the theft was carried out by Mother Russia. The Kremlin cajoled the other soviets to agree with her story. And me, a product of two nations and, as much as I could account for, one sock, I did my best to share my sole possession with both warring parties.
“Be a ballerina, like your grandmother,” my Russian family told me. My grandmother hasn’t spoken a word since tearing her Achilles tendon in ‘64. The Russians, despite having no evidence, blamed this on the South Africans. My father knew this conspiracy theory was due to an inside job. As long as grandmother attended dinner, everyone seemed pleased. But the socks were another matter entirely.
My mother attended the gym daily. She wore the small, black, ankle-high socks during her workout and washed them afterwards. Since the socks weren’t marked (“like I did for you as a child, Galina”), they got lost during the tumbling and turning of the washing machine and struggled to find their rightful owner.
This lawlessness led to my South African family hoarding all the malva pudding in my aunt’s room. The Russians responded in kind by holding all the yard tools in mother’s closet, which resulted in a ridiculously unkempt lawn. When this didn’t lead to resolution, the next step was for everyone to blame their next of kin, or simply just the family member standing closest to them at the time.
Then a pair of grey knee-high socks were discovered that belonged to no one. Both sides readied for nuclear war. Since the Russians were very sure of themselves, and were never wrong, they proclaimed that the grey socks most certainly weren’t theirs. The South Africans responded to the insinuation by bleaching all of the Russian’s socks white.
To this day, the case of the grey socks remains unsolved.
After months of calamity, it was agreed upon by both sides to individually mark each sock (“like I did for you as a child, Galina”). This way, the socks wouldn’t get lost and would find their rightful owner. As a neutral embassy with DNA from both factions, I attempted to bring peace to all Russians (and their half-South African families) who tend to lose their small, black, ankle-high socks on a daily basis. So, I spread word of the settlement. I hope this epidemic will one day be permanently eradicated.
But I remain doubtful.