My sixteen-year-old son’s underwear went missing.
Not a single pair, mind you, but every pair he owns.
Not all at once, either. Not Poof! All the underwear is gone. But gradually, over time, my wife noticed she was washing less and less of his underwear until it was down to a boxer or two.
And then nothing. All of them. Every single pair gone.
Mysterious stuff surrounds sixteen-year-old boys. Primarily it has to do with strange odors. If they hunt and fish as mine does, many times it has to do with the identification of things left inside refrigerators or the origins of something floating in the washing machine. But sometimes it is something else entirely; something truly baffling, like when all his boxer shorts disappeared.
My attitude toward mysteries involving teenage boys is to remain blithely ignorant. If it were up to me, I would have simply bought him more underwear and let the question of what happened to the originals fade away. His mother is cut from a different mold. Although she is a reasonably intelligent person, she often asks foolish questions of our teenager. In this case, she asked him “What’s happened to all your underwear?”
The problem with asking a sixteen-year-old boy a question of this nature is you are going to get an answer. If you are lucky, it will simply be one of those “go away” type answers. If not, the explanation will most likely have you questioning which side of the family contributed the chromosomes that caused this behavior.
Fortunately, his answer to his mother’s inquiry was “I don’t know.” And here’s the sad thing – he meant it.
The mystery of the missing underwear was eventually solved when the boy’s truck needed some work. My wife and I swung by his school to pick it up and drive it to the garage. The boy informed us earlier that he did not have time to clean it out. Could we bring along some trash bags and get some of the junk out of it before we took it to the garage?
As requested, we brought along a few trash bags. Had we known the volume of the junk in his truck we would have probably brought along an excavator as well. Every kind of food service bag, box, wrapper and cup shared the floorboard with book bags, school books, papers, socks, shirts and uneaten food in various stages of decay. Suffice to say, had we found Jimmy Hoffa buried under all that mess, neither of us would have been surprised and it could not have smelled any worse.
It felt more like an archeological dig than a truck clean-out as we clawed our way through layer upon layer of trash and whatnot. At about the Late Cretaceous layer, we struck underwear. Not one pair, but several pairs. We kept digging and found more underwear – pair upon pair of underwear.
Like the leftover food it, too, was in various stages of decay.
At one point my wife paused her saying uncharitable things about our child long enough to ask again what I felt was a question that should not be asked lest you get an answer. Fortunately, it was directed at me: “Why is all his underwear in his truck?”
“Why does the wind blow?” I said as way of answer. “Why is the sky blue?”
My wife refused to simply accept the existentialism of the situation and cornered the boy the first chance she got. His explanation was this: After baseball practice, you change clothes, including your underwear. The dirty underwear was bunched up with other clothing, taken to the truck and, of course, thrown on the floorboard. There it smoldered, forgotten, as layers of junk was piled on top of it.
How you fail to correlate throwing your underwear on the floorboard of your truck with missing underwear back at the homestead takes a sixteen-year-old mind to comprehend – or not comprehend as it were. I have no explanation.
His mother washed the boxer shorts, read him the riot act and the great missing underwear mystery ended.
A few years after the mystery of the missing underwear event we encountered another strange occurrence surrounding the boy. He was about three weeks into his first semester as a freshman in college when his mother determined he might not be getting enough to eat. At her insistence, we loaded a couple of coolers full of food and brought it to the apartment he and three other kids shared. While unloading the coolers, I opened their freezer to put in a few frozen pizzas. There were several large, plastic sandwich bags in the freezer filled with lumpy, dark objects. Against my better judgement, I took a closer look.
One of the lumps stared back at me.
They were frogs. Their freezer was loaded with plastic sandwich bags crammed full of dead, frozen frogs.
I slid the frozen pizzas in where I could fit them, shut the door and got on with my day. A little while later, my wife was putting something in the freezer. I listened intently, hoping to hear the freezer door quietly shut and nothing more.
No such luck.
“What are bags of frozen frogs doing in your freezer!” she asked at a volume that shook the rafters.
We got the answer.
For the whole drive home, she and I argued about family members and chromosomes.