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About Magnificence in the Mundane

Bringing humor to the many challenges of parenting, driving a gigantic SUV full of smelly boys and their friends, letting go of the idea of perfection and tackling middle age all serve as my inspiration. We all have common experiences, I just share my take on the absurdity of every... Read more

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photo of bottle cap with a S

Pack It In

It took a whole week before I could face the grim task of purging school year 2013-14. I dragged the trashcan over to the table and took a deep breath. I was going in.

I approached the backpacks like you would a rabid animal; slowly and deliberately with equal amounts fear and respect. It took two hands, brute strength and focus to heave the first backpack onto the kitchen table.

How did they wear this on their backs? What kind of mother lets their kid wear this on his back? What the hell is in this thing?

Once unzipped, I realized the question really was, what ISN’T in this thing.

I was picturing a new reality show—“Student Hoarders”– kids who cannot throw one thing away over a 10 month school year. Unless of course, it was something I needed to sign. That stuff was discarded immediately and erased from short term memory making it easier to feign innocence when the threatening emails came in from school administrators.

All those composition notebooks, six in total, each child HAD to have in August were now returned to me. The connecting, squiggle pattern on each cover was completely colored in. The careful attention to detail applied to the cover would explain the lack of writing on the inside.  I ripped out the handful of used pages and tossed them in the trash.

I remembered then that I heard something metal hit the table when I lifted the backpack.  I bravely fished around under the text books and put my hands on a bottle cap.

It was a Snapple lid stating the following:

photo of bottle cap with a SReal Fact #689 “The roadrunner chases after its prey at a blurring speed of up to 25 mph” This is the one fact that he has chosen to retain after a year’s worth of facts and figures? Forget the TV show, we were writing a book “All I Really Need to Know, I Learned from Snapple.”

The next zippered compartment contained candy and a weeks’ worth of snacks that were flattened. They looked like the roadrunner ran over them at the blurring speed of up to 25 mph. I silently apologized to starving children as they landed with a thud in the trash.

In the next pocket I found a Father’s Day gift wrapped in tissue paper with the words “Fragile” on the front. “Fragile” is like a dare to my boys so I was not overly hopeful about its condition. I didn’t want to open it because it wasn’t mine. On the flip side, I didn’t want my husband, Mark, to open it if it was ruined. (Insert Snapple Real Fact #689 here)

I stared at the big, blocky letters spelling DAD. I could throw it away and no one would know.  My son had obviously forgotten about it. Mark never knew about it. I suddenly missed the days when I only had to worry about myself and make big decisions like working out in the morning vs working out at night.

I tossed it and watched as it sunk making a big dent in the snacks and papers.

Next up was a giant paperclip. It was huge, like the size of a dinner fork. This was one of those items that totally rocked to a kid but was ridiculous to an adult.  What do you do with a paperclip large enough to fasten the manuscript to “War and Peace?” You place it in the bowl on the kitchen table with all the other crap your kids consider treasure that you don’t have the energy to deal with today; which was exactly what I did.

I marched over to the trashcan and retrieved the Father’s Day gift. If the paperclip on steroids made the cut, it seemed only right to take our chances on what lie beneath the brown tissue paper.  I interpreted the fact that it was not covered in food when I plucked it out, as a sign.

Onward. Three winter hats. The missing mates for gloves we needed when it was ten below and icy for months on end. Doodles. Graph paper with no math anywhere just pictures created by coloring in the squares during class.  Two lunchboxes.  One pair of boxers.

And a partridge in a pear tree. Not really. Although, this was sort of like Christmas. It was full of surprises, but with the worst gifts ever.

Finally we were down to just text books. I was definitely saving them like I did every year foolishly hoping that the kids would actually open them. In reality, I was just delaying the trip to the recycling bin. I had a solid tradition of being a summer homework slacker so, really, hope was all I had.

I took a moment to pay silent homage to all the parents home schooling their kids. That crew paved their way to heaven one lesson plan at a time.

I tipped the backpack upside down and watched the crumbs, eraser pieces, scraps of paper, staples and wrappers cascade into the trash.  The empty backpack smelled. Bad. Like following a trash truck in traffic and having the odor assault you through the air vents kind of bad.

I zipped it back up anyway and watched it sag. Deflated, like me.

How could another year have passed so quickly? Time is tricky that way; flying by at the blurring speed of up to 25 mph.

Maureen Stiles

About Maureen Stiles

Maureen is the author of the blog Magnificence in the Mundane. You can read her monthly column at The Town Courier.


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