Where Have All the Backpacks Gone?

“Do you think it’s all a little over your heads?”

“Definitely,” he said, spooning back the last of the Cheerios and wiping his mouth on his shirt.

mike actsI miss having young kids around the place – I mean as nice as it is not to have to leap from the bed mornings to work a bunch of socks onto a bunch of other people’s feet.  I look fondly back to our last child, who is a good deal younger than his siblings, and to the fun he and I would have once those older others had set out for their day:

Instantly the IQ level in the house would drop as I would pretend to gouge out my eyes with my grapefruit spoon, say and he would squeeze his food “to see if it screamed,” as he put it. Now and then we’d put an egg into the microwave, shell and all, just to see what would happen.

In that half hour before he too stepped onto the school bus, our talks ranged far and wide. One day when he was in Third Grade, I copied one of our morning exchanges down word-for-word in my diary. Here it is:

“I tackled Phil three times yesterday!” he said. “I took Robert DOWN!” 

“This was in gym class?” I asked.

“No, Recess. In gym we’re doing Our Developing Bodies. Also drugs and alcohol.’”

 These kids are nine years old! I thought.

“So, uh, what gets talked about exactly?”

“Oh, deodorant and showers. Then there are these sentence beginnings the teacher writes down that we have to finish.”

“Like for instance?”

“Well, one said, ‘My friends can’t make me…’ and I wrote ‘Cool.’”

“I see!”

“Then a girl in the class had to finish the sentence, ‘One good thing about drinking is…’ and she wrote ‘Not getting caught.’”

“Do you think it’s all a little over your heads?”

“Definitely,” he said, spooning back the last of the Cheerios and wiping his mouth on his shirt.

I read this old journal entry and think  Oh for the days when your kids would admit that something was over their heads! Lately I sometimes suspect they secretly think things are over my head. Sometimes this former Third Grader in particular addresses me in a manner I find sort of strangely patient and forbearing, the kind of manner parents use when trying to explain something to their slow-to-catch-on child.

He’ll come home for a visit from the big city these days and say something like, “Oh, this picture hangs here now?” Or, “So you like the kitchen walls Colonial Blue?”

This is why I love afternoons with my young grandsons, who think everything I do is great and totally get it when suggest we paint all the light bulbs pink and then help me do it. Plus young kids are fine with changes you make in your home décor; it’s the ones that grew up in the house who want things to stay the same.

But this son of mine has been good to me always, and even now on walking into the house on his visits home he will still drop his bags, pull out his same Cheerios chair and tell me all the news. Once in a while, we still even find ourselves taking an egg or two from the egg carton and heading for the microwave.

God the kid was fun. Here he is at about 12, getting the word’s hugest kick out of a game of Pictionary with his  honorary sister Susan. 

susie & mike in a game 1998




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9 thoughts on “Where Have All the Backpacks Gone?

  1. what a blessing to have my matthew all alone after the girls have already left for the early bus. it’s a time a treasure, even if it’s just a handful of minutes every morning.

      1. it’s all starting to make me twitch… i want to go back and have them as babies…and slow down…maybe just for a day with each.

      2. yes! like in the play Our Town where young Emily, who has died in childbirth, gets to go back to one day, her 14th birthday . Gets me every time that Act Three!

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