I wrote yesterday about my new goal of walking 100 miles by July. I had not planning on writing much more about my daily walkabouts, but then today’s walk turned out a little strange.
One of my usual routes takes us (the Kiddo, the dog and me) on a bike/jogging path next to a creek. This path connects the housing development I live in with the one neighboring it and is (presumably) used by local children walking to the elementary school that is around the corner from my house. As we walk down this short path, I notice a backpack in the grass with what I assume was some of its content strewn around it. My first thought was that it must have been some kids fooling around and I did not think much about it and carried on with our walk. Two things struck me about it. The first was that it appeared very clean. No backpack I had as a kid ever seemed particularly clean but this (at least from where I was walking) seemed almost new. The second was the bottle of antibacterial gel attached to the outside of the backpack. I started to think that kids who keep their backpacks really clean and tote around hand sanitizer probably do not carelessly leave their backpacks laying about. The more I thought about it, the more it bothered me. I resolved that if it had not been claimed by the time we walked back, I would take it to the elementary school so it could be reunited with its owner. One our way back the backpack was still there. A woman starting her own walk down the path did not even give it a second look. I thought about picking it up and walking it back with me to the house but with the Kiddo in the carrier and the dog becoming increasingly impatient, I decided I would drive over and retrieve it. I got home, changed the Kiddo’s diaper and made sure the dog was squared away and then off the Kiddo and I went in the car to being our “Operation Backpack”.
Once we were back on the scene, it started to look less like an act of carelessness and more like an act of bad behavior. Every zipper and pocket was open, pencils and other contents were broken and scattered about. I had a sad feeling that someone had either found or taken this backpack, pilfered through it and then dumped it. I am reminded of the times when I was a child that I accidentally lost things and the shame I felt. I grabbed the contents that did not appear to be broken and gave the bag a quick once over for any identifying information, but I did not see anything…just a boy’s first name, written in that little kid script, the kind where they dot their “i”s with circles.
While we drive the lost backpack to the school my mind wanders. In my head a narrative was being written about a little boy who lost his red backpack, and how he was afraid to tell his mother because she would scold him and now he was sitting in his classroom fretting about how he was going to explain its disappearance when all of the sudden the an announcement is made over the loud speaker that he is to report to the office immediately. He goes into a panic. He is certain its his mother. She found out that he lost his backpack and came all the way over the school to ground him for it. He shuffles off to the office to meet his fate and then when he opens up the office door the secretary is there, with his long lost backpack. His little heart skips a beat as he is reunited with his backpack, he has nothing to fear, his mother will be blissfully unaware of his mistake and all is well in his world. Naturally, I bow out long before he arrives at the office, I am far to humble to accept accolades for my heroic feats, but I make a silent pledge that should the owner of this backpack ever come to my door selling cookies or candy bars for a school fundraiser, that I would make a big purchase. I had just started to fantasize about those “worlds greatest chocolate bars” kids sometimes sell–the ones with the almonds, when I pull into the school parking lot and find it totally empty, not a single car to be found. Now my dreams of reuniting a child with his beloved backpack and reuniting myself with some a delicious chocolate bar have been dashed, I set off to the police station in hopes that they at least have a lost and found.
The police station is across town from me but I found it pretty easily. I brought the bag in and explained that I had found it and attempted to bring it to the school but they were closed. The woman at the desk told me schools were closed for Lincoln’s birthday. This experience, has stuck with me today. Throughout the rest of my errands, the running after the Kiddo, lunch with a friend…I keep thinking about that backpack and wondering.