Dealing with the Misplaced Sweatshirts

During this past week, Charlie has misplaced, and then eventually found, four of his sweatshirts. The one he lost, somewhere on the elementary school property yesterday, was reclaimed early this morning at drop off, during a joint search with Scott. Because the sweatshirt in question was a “special” one that Scott had purchased for Charlie during a mini vacation to Monterey this summer, Scott was hell bent on conducting the mission, “Find Monterey Sweatshirt Or Else,” quickly, before too many days had passed. I got a perky email at 9:00 this morning from my husband announcing that the sweatshirt had been recovered. Communication at such an early hour is unusual for Scott since he doesn’t really rouse into “jocular mode” until around 5:00 pm when he issues either phoned or emailed inquiries about the dinner menu. (The dinner inquiry, whether by email or phone call, generally annoys me…but I do like hearing Scott’s voice and getting an update on his day so I’ll usually put up with menu questions in order to get the work lowdown.)

“Found the sweatshirt,” his email stated…a simple and to-the-point message – very much Scott’s style. “Good,” I thought, “another thing to check off the Annoying To Do List. (I have many lists – some written down, like the grocery list, but there are many others too. Each list forms a long, trailing thread of nonsensical details and items. The different list threads in my head frequently become entwined until they knot, and then these vicious knots clog up my brain, forcing me to take valuable time and energy to shake loose the correct thread….with the appropriate list….that has the minute detail I’m after.)

But this post isn’t about my mind and the messy “Detail Clogs” that lie within my brain matter. It’s about the troublesome misplaced sweatshirt habit of my second son. Charlie has had the “misplaced-another-item, I-don’t-know-why-my-desk-is-so-disorganized, gee-I-forgot-to-hand-in-my homework habit” pretty much since kindergarten. Some teachers have tried to assist in the redirection of these…tendencies. Others? Well, they have not. Or, they’ve given up. During one school year, early on, there was a gaggle of little girl class mates who would try to assist Charlie in getting his sh^% together. One or the other of them would come running out to the courtyard at the tail end of school pick-up, “Charlie, Charlie! You forgot the permission slip the parents have to sign. You won’t be able to come on the trip if you don’t get it signed.” Or, “Charlie, you forgot your coat! Aren’t you freezing?” “Oh,” he’d say sheepishly, “thanks.”

At school pick-up today, I pulled the car up as far as I could, coming to a spot within the car line that was almost directly in front of the school entrance. Many school children were congregated there, waiting in a bustling throng to load themselves and all their belongings into the appropriate cars. Time and again, at pick-up, despite spotting our car, Charlie will linger with his group of friends, ignoring me, testing my patience. There’s always something to chat about, one last point to be made, a palm to slap in high five fashion. This afternoon, after yelling his name vigorously once, twice, three times, and then finally adding, “Come on, let’s go!” Charlie began to amble over to our car. About halfway, he was called back to the throng by a friend, who thrust some papers into his hand. Once he had reached the car again and was opening the passenger door, I asked, “Where’s your backpack?!” An instant later, his best friend came rushing over to our vehicle, Charlie’s green plaid back pack in hand. “Your backpack!” he said urgently and handed it over to Charlie. “Thanks, man,” Charlie said, scuttling into the car. The backpack, I noticed, was unzipped every which way, flapping, wide open, empty.

“Charlie,” I said, a sigh in my voice, “where’s all your stuff? Your water bottle? Your sweatshirts? Dad emailed me today to say that he found the Monterey sweatshirt. That’s great but where is it now? And your other sweatshirt? The one you wore this morning because we couldn’t find the Monterey one? It looks like everything fell out of your backpack. It’s empty.”

“I switched out the skate board sweatshirt with the Monterey one when Dad and I found it in the Lost and Found,” he told me, with a matter-of-fact tone. “Dad has the skateboard sweatshirt in his car. He’ll bring it home tonight.”

“I see. So then, where’s the Monterey sweatshirt?”

“Oh man,” he whined, “I don’t know. “Hey Dude!” Charlie suddenly yelled out the car door. “Is my sweatshirt over there…on the bench?” Out of the entire throng, Best Friend Dude seemed to hear Charlie’s inquisitive and desperate call. He came rushing over to our car, for a second time. I could see he was carrying Charlie’s black sweatshirt with “Monterey” sprawled in red script across the front. The Dude handed the sweatshirt to Charlie who thanked him briefly, took the shirt and tossed it towards the middle of the backseat. Charlie then got to work buckling his seat belt before shutting his door.

I took one look at Best Friend Dude before Charlie slammed the car door with a bang. The Dude, short and thin boned, looked back at me and shook his head a little. His palms rose upward as if to say, “What about this kid, always forgetting his stuff, huh?”

I shook my head back at him, smiling and silently chuckling, “I know, try being his mother. But I love him anyway.”

Best Friend Dude smiled back. His deep dark brown eyes, with the almost-tired gray circles barely visible underneath the lower lashes, told me, “I don’t mind keeping track of him. That’s what best friends are for. I love him too.”

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