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The ongoing mystery of in-home math

Moseyin’ Along

March 14, 2012
By Joyce Schenk - COLUMNIST ( , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

Through the years, I've come to realize that the basic rules of mathematics don't apply within the walls of the family home.

In our house, one prime example involves the hangers that live in our double closet. I take a couple of things out of my section, leaving two empty hangers. Then, George takes out two items. Logic would dictate we now have four empty hangers mixed in with the remaining clothing.


Not necessarily.

Somehow, when the closet doors close, strange things happen. The clothes-less hangers get together to make their own kind of whoopie. By the time I finally notice what's been going on, I discover a dozen hangers pushing and shoving the clothes out of the way, making space for a hanger reunion.

A couple of times a year, I gather up the excess hangers and pass them along to a family less hanger-blessed than ours. Still, behind our closet doors, the unstoppable hangers continue to multiply with abandon.

The situation only changes on wash day. Then, no matter how I search, I'm lucky to come up with one or two useful hangers to support the newly-laundered blouses, shirts and slacks. It's as though the word has spread and the able-bodied hangers, knowing they'll soon be called into service, somehow manage to transport themselves to an out-of-the-way storage area to continue their festivities.

But, it's not just my hanger population that refuses to abide by the normal logic of addition and subtraction. Socks, too, defy the one-plus-one-equals-two rule.

If I put four perfectly matched pairs of socks into the wash, it seems reasonable to expect eight socks to come back to me after the washer and dryer have done their job. But instead, when the laundry is finished one of the group will have disappeared into the land of the lost.

I'm convinced somewhere out there lies a huge mound of mateless socks, waiting to be reunited with their missing twins.

The mountain is part of a vast landscape of lost items which has also claimed my favorite pen, my best scarf, the spare key to the shed and the Jack of clubs that's been AWOL from the family's deck of cards.

The bedroom and the laundry are not the only parts of the home prone to this twisted form of math. The kitchen, too, gives rise to some irrational results.

I well remember those afternoons when, as a "starving" teen, I'd come home from school hungry enough to eat the shelf paper in the pantry. The refrigerator would reveal such sparse offerings as a small chunk of cold meat loaf and a half-cup of tomato paste.

If I moaned to mom that there was nothing to eat, she would always find an apple or an orange to help me survive until suppertime. Then, using her never-fail thrifty homemaker magic, mom would grace the table with a large bowl of steaming spaghetti drenched in her delicious meat sauce.

I couldn't understand how she made so much from so little - until I became a wife and mother. These days, I practice the same wizardry in my own kitchen. It's amazing how a cup of this, a handful of that and a pinch of something else - with a bit of imagination thrown in - can make a satisfying meal for the whole family.

Nothing in the math books can explain this in-home form of magic, yet those of us who endlessly gather extra hangers, search for missing socks or whip up a meal out of nothing, realize logic and the basic rules of mathematics don't apply where family life is concerned.



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