It’s the backpack that sits tucked behind the chair that haunts me. Not hers- hers is still in the box we received with the rest of her school things. It’s his- beside the chair where he dropped it last June. Each week I make a mental note to clean out the backpack. Yet it still sits in the same spot calling to me. If I sort through the papers I will find myself rereading his first 3rd grade story…. “I have a mom and dad and sister and a dog.” Putting away last year’s schoolwork requires me to open the trunk where all the other special work is tucked away.
The trunk is our treasure box that they would ask me to open on rainy days. I would open the lid and they would unload it in perfect order, taking each item out as if it was a rare artifact. His Pre-k 3 work -then hers- they would go back and forth until all its treasures were displayed across the floor. They would belly laugh at the drawings and that they actually wrote backward “a”s. She would sit wide-eyed as he revealed the grade she had not yet completed. She would take it all in as if she was planning what she would do when it was her turn. They were always in total agreement with what was the best about the grades they had both graduated and which was the best project ever.
I am determined to not be stuck in the year that is bundled up in his backpack. Yet I leave it sitting there- a constant reminder sitting beside the chair. I know what is in his bag and what is waiting inside the trunk. It is more than paper and projects- it’s my beautiful memories so raw that right now they hurt: the hours she sat at the kitchen table taping and gluing the cardboard horse. It’s her hand wrapped around a crayon creating what I swore to her was a beautiful as a Van Gogh. Hearing her voice as she read without quivering “Cats and Bunnies, by Catherine Hubbard.” Emptying the backpack acknowledges that time will continue to move forward at the same constant speed- whether I am ready or not. He will fill a new backpack with new papers. We will continue to form new vivid memories that will come alive when we spread the work across the floor. We will smile at the pictures and backward “a”s and we will talk about the times….a Mom and a Dad and a Sister and Brother.