Cassie: Hi! How are you?
Cassie: Where’s your Monterey sweatshirt?
(We are at the school car line pickup. Charlie has entered the car and I have begun to run through my usual checklist of items that Charlie needs to remember at the end of the school day, but usually forgets.)
Charlie: Nowhere to be found.
Cassie: Did you even check all the spots?
Charlie: Not technically….but I can feel it in my bones that the poor Monterey sweatshirt is a goner.
Cassie: Oh really? ‘Cause I can feel it in my bones that you forgot to look for it today and it’s somewhere in this area. You said you had left it right on your desk when I asked you about it over the weekend.
Charlie: Well, it wasn’t on my desk. I’m not sure where it is. It could be anywhere…it could be nowhere.
(And because this last comment seems so “Charlie-flippant” to my ears, I pull our car right out of the pickup line and make my way to the side parking lot to the left of the elementary school. I announce that Gigi and I will wait in the car while Charlie goes on one of his familiar sweatshirt hunts, solo.)
Both Charlie and Gigi groan, but Charlie unbuckles his seat belt, opens the back passenger door and gets out of the car. Gigi and I are silent. I take out my phone and begin deleting old emails and voice mails.)
Gigi: This is sooooo (pronounced “thoooo” because Gigi has a bit of a lisp) booorrring. Can I get out of my car seat buckles?
Cassie: (I momentarily look up from my phone maintenance task) Sure.
Gigi: We’re going to be sooo (again with the “thoooo” ) late to pick up Chloe from school.
Cassie: Probably a little, but we were earlier than usual getting here so maybe we’ll come out even. I doubt Charlie’s looking very thoroughly anyway. He won’t be much longer.
Gigi: (sighing) I’ll try not to think about it but I have a little tummy ache. I might have to go poop or pee.
Cassie: Can you hold it?
Gigi: Think so. (Pause) You should just let the sweatshirt die, Mommy.
I turn around to look at Gigi after this last comment and then hear heavy breathing outside the car. Charlie comes running up to the back door. He’s panting from having just made the circuit (Playground — Outdoor Lost and Found Rack — After School Clubhouse) in a flash.
Charlie: (attempting to catch his breath, hand on chest) Nothing. I found nothing.
Cassie: Did you look carefully enough? Because it seems like you conducted that search kind of quickly.
Charlie: I LOOKED!
Cassie: Well, you and I are coming back here to look together. (I drive the car away from the school.) First we have to pick up Chloe, and Gigi has to go to the bathroom. I’m going to leave them off at the house and you and I will come back. Got it?
Charlie: I’m starving.
Cassie: Too bad. That’s what we’re doing. You can have a snack after we find YOUR SWEATSHIRT THAT YOU’VE LOST FOR THE UMPTEENTH TIME!! (In the rear view mirror I catch Charlie sticking his tongue out and making ghastly faces at me. He sees that I’ve seen him. He tries to stare me down.)
We drop the girls off at the house and then turn right around and head back to the school. The initial fester between us has worn off slightly by the time we’ve returned to the school parking lot. There’s some idle chatter from Charlie about his Chapter Three math test. We walk across the school campus arriving at the outdoor basketball blacktop, our first checkpoint, where Charlie NOW believes he forgot the sweatshirt.
Cassie: I thought you said you left it in your classroom? Now you think you left it outside? Which is it?
Charlie: It’s all a jumble. I have a lot on my mind.
(I roll my eyes – hidden because of my sunglasses – and march toward the second checkpoint, the After School Club House since a quick, but thorough, scan of the entire blacktop has garnered nothing. Plenty of forgotten sweatshirts and hats and water bottles, but none is ours. Charlie is well known at the Club House, the central location for the YMCA After School Program, for we’ve frequented the joint on more than one occasion, looking for this or that lost item. “Hey Charlie,” the counselors always say when we pop in, “did ya lose something again?” As we head down the stairs that lead from the basketball blacktop to the baseball field and the Club House beyond, I spot a black sweatshirt, splattered with mud, wet and flattened to the ground. I point to it.)
Cassie: Is that your…?
(Rushing in to pick up the sopping black jacket by the hood, Charlie turns it this way and that. It sags, heavy with rain water. Through the mud streaks, we can see the red lettering; “Monte” on one side of the unzipped jacket. Then, “Rey” on the other.
Charlie: The wind. The wind must have blown it off the blacktop. That’s why I didn’t see it. Darned wind.
Cassie: You are actually going to blame this on the wind?
Charlie: Of course. It was a force of nature. I’m glad we found it. Phew. Will you wash it for me? This thing is a dripping mess!