Thursday, April 18, 2013

Black Hole Backpack

We were in our usual state of frantic, barely-controlled, early morning chaos the other day when my older son decided he needed more note paper in his binder.  He removed said binder from the rotund mesh of nylon and canvas that grudgingly holds all of his schoolwork, and then - could not replace it once it was filled.  He's jamming away and yelling, "I'm gonna be late!" while trying to work his binder into a space that could barely even hold an empty Pee-chee folder.  I did what any mom would do who just wants peace and quiet once the boys leave, and came over to help.  Papers were protruding in every direction imaginable.  They were crumpled, accordion-style, underneath the binder's usual resting spot, and they peeked out timidly from between other dog-eared folders in his backpack.  Something must be done.

I started pulling out papers right and left.  He's yelling in the background, "Just forget it!  I don't know if I need those papers or not!".  But more and more kept coming out of his pack, a tidal wave of math equations and spelling lists that had long been bottled up, like vomit after a 21st birthday celebration (ok, that's a bit much, granted). In any case, there were more than I could handle at that time, and I was able to replace the binder in his stuffed bag just as the bike posse rolled into our court to get my son.

After I sat there, stunned, for a few minutes, I started thinking what I could do to remedy the situation.  I'm stumped.  I buy plastic folders so that he can easily slide papers into a flat receptacle, binder dividers to organize everything, and hanging files for his desk drawers so that he can remove older papers and put them together with others in the proper subject matter.  But it doesn't matter.  He is not concerned with organization and swears he has a system that works for him.  I, on the other hand, get stressed just looking into the black hole that is his backpack.  How's it possible for one individual to lose so much in such a small space?  Thankfully he has a separate lunch bag and we have yet to find the month-old banana that my friends have unearthed in their own boys' packs.

I was still thinking about this as I went to his baseball game.  As scorekeeper I always keep a mechanical pencil in my purse because the nub of a chewed-down No 2 Ticonderoga that accompanies the field scorebook just doesn't cut it.  I was getting myself set up, trying to find my pencil in time to write the opposing team's lineup and still eat my In-N-Out burger before play started.  The clock was ticking and I became more and more frantic as I searched fruitlessly through all of the hundreds of receipts littering my purse.  Multiple checkbooks were in my way.  Sunglasses, hand sanitizer, lotion, eyedrops, and about 20 different lipsticks were all present, but not my trusty pencil.  I suddenly realized: I had the black hole purse that must have spawned the black hole backpack.  How had this happened???  I'm usually pretty organized. And then it hit me.  I can blame my mom.

When I was in high school, I used to take BART to and from high school so that I could attend a private school which was 30 minutes drive-time away from home (and about 2 1/2 hours using mass transit).  In the mornings I would accompany my mom, who had survived the morning commute from suburbs to San Francisco for many years.  She had her routine, like all early-morning commuters: she had to be on the same train car every day, so she could be near the other regulars who traveled like lemmings back and forth each day.  One morning we were running a little behind.  The train was pulling up to the platform as we were downstairs adding money to our BART tickets.  We started sprinting up the escalator, rushing to get down the platform to our usual car.  I hopped off the escalator, started running after my mom, and proceeded to slip and fall, doing a great James Brown impression in the process.  She didn't even turn around.  Just kept on running.  A few men in suits helped me up and I ran for the car she had entered.  My nylons were snagged and blood was running from the cut on my knee.  As I was huffing and puffing to draw breath, she reached into her bulging purse to pull out a full-sized can of Bactine!  I kid you not.  And a band aid.   I was hoping she'd have a spare pair of tights in there, but no luck (I'd have to risk getting a detention for being out of dress code once I removed my own).  I'm not even sure what else could have come out of her purse, a la Mary Poppins, but the possibilities were endless.

As a mom now myself, I realize that my purse is the place for all of my children's stuff.  It houses toys, snacks, extra books, iPods, kleenex, clothing, and anything else that is not too sticky that they can hand off to me.  I guess I can go a bit easier on the boy.  Let me just pull that filing system out of my purse and we'll get started.


  1. SO TRUE!!! Oh my goodness... my purse has WAY too much crap in it!! Even when I clean it out... Aghhhh

  2. Ha! My friend once pulled out a full sized sandwich when i declared I was hungry. It was awesome!!