Thursday, July 21, 2016

My Friend Mr. Book Bag

I know some of you who are teachers are dreading the end of summer vacation and the beginning of the school year, but for me, it brings back childhood memories. Don’t get me wrong, I was not one of those kids who looked forward to it or had visions of creating that robot who would do my bidding and impress the teacher. I was a shy kid who felt overwhelmed by the idea of going to school where all those kids were and where the expectation that I would be the next Einstein loomed over my head like a dark shadow.

Skeeter was my best friend, and as long as she was in my class, I might actually make it through the first grade. Besides Skeeter, I had my protective book bag. Honest to Pete, I loved that thing. Not only was it good to put my Dick and Jane book in and my papers of accomplishment like the picture of the plumb I correctly colored purple, notwithstanding my wonderful array of school supplies, but it also contained my magical mementos. I had my ball and jacks, a deck of worn out Old Maid cards (kind of a chauvinistic game in today’s politically correct world I guess), and things that belonged to my parents so I could feel they were there to protect me. I kept a button from my mom’s dress and one of my dad’s ties. You can never be too safe.

Everything would have been okay except I carried that protective book bag with me everywhere I went. When I say everywhere, I mean exactly that—to the restroom, the cafeteria, and even to recess. My teacher thought my obsession with my book bag might be detrimental to my mental wellbeing and sent home a note to my parents asking them to discourage me from traveling constantly with my shield and friend Mr. Book Bag.

Now this may surprise some of you, but my parents were different—different in their beliefs about raising children and their philosophies about what children needed. My father sent back a note to my teacher in which he flatly refused to insist on me giving up my book bag. He told her I needed that book bag to feel secure and that he felt I would eventually stop dragging it around once I felt safe and comfortable in the class. I never felt as validated as I did that day when my dad stuck up for me.

Eventually, I did stop taking that book bag with me all over the place. After all, I had my best friend Skeet. What’s a book bag compared to a best friend? Naturally, a note went home about that, too, but that’s another story for another time. So, the lesson I learned about love and feeling loved is sometimes it’s not enough to hear the words “I love you”, sometimes you can only know how much a person loves you by their actions and how they support the unique person they know you to be.

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