When I can’t find them, I wonder where they go. Did some barefoot alien with cold feet or a bad virus sneak into the bedroom in the middle of the night and spirit them away? Or was it my granddaughter’s imaginary buddy George, who lives in the basement with the mice, invading our walk-in-closet upstairs? At any rate, where do handkerchiefs and socks go?

I like the idea of not being Kleenex-dependent. With the influenza season upon us, it seems every time we drive by the nearest big box store, we have to make a stop and load the back of the van with a dozen or more boxes of throwaway tissues. The use of paper products like these is a convenience. It avoids repeated trips to the basement to unload a dryer full of clothes and bedding, pawing around in a tumbled mess. When I can’t find any handkerchiefs, could it be there’s something in the laundry chute that snatches them away before they hit the basement floor?

I have found handkerchiefs in the garage where they are subject to unusual uses. Need to check the oil or wipe dirt off a headlight? Never met a dipstick or headlamp that didn’t like a soft touch. How about wiping Super Glue off your fingers in an emergency before it sets up? It’s my understanding that a thumb and forefinger are not normally mated to each other permanently, right? There are choices that must be made in a crisis — clean the fingers quickly or have a tough time finding gloves that fit your hands the next time it gets cold.

We gave up a long time ago the idea of multi-colored socks. Trendy patterns are for special occasions only. In the morning rush to get to work or appointments, sorting "what goes with what" is a luxury we couldn’t afford. Argyles? A touch too elegant. Figuring out the patterns in a crunch? No way.

Toe socks, while cute, strangle old toes. Even socks that can be turned into monkeys are usually available only to kids with patient grandmothers with lots of time on their hands. So it’s one color fits all. Black is fine. But did you ever see a woman or man running in black socks? I know it happens, but it is jarring to older sensibilities. If God had wanted us to exercise in black socks, he would have put them on top of our running shoes as a hint. Either way, the issue remains, where do socks and handkerchiefs go?

There are no easy or cheap answers. A person could buy new socks weekly or wear the same ones for a month to economize, ew! Without handkerchiefs, a sloppy solution might be the lumberjack wipe on a left or right sleeve. (Insert another ew! here.) A more expensive alternative might be to put a computer chip in the material of each sock or hankie so tracking them would be easier. If you can do it with the dog or cat, you should be able to do it with a piece of cloth.

The final solution might be going to the basement with Mae and have a talk with George. But even that might not work. He’s busy with the mice.

Doug Lewandowski is a retired counselor, educator and licensed psychologist. Write to him at lewandowskidoug@gmail.com.