I must have missed that section in the What to Expect books on
how to react when your child comes home from school with a Ziploc
bag filled with squid parts in his backpack.
"Um, what in the world is this?" I asked as I gingerly held the
package at arm's length.
"The stuff from inside the squid we dissected in science,"
replied Zachary as nonchalantly as if they were gym clothes. "Nick
and I divided up the parts. Aren't they cool?"
Wonderful. Half of the pieces from a real-life game of
Operation: The Sea Creature Edition. I examined the contents
through the plastic. Was that an eyeball? Do squid have
I agreed to let the squid remains sit on our kitchen counter
(bagged, of course), but after three days, the unwanted guest had
to go. The kitchen was starting to smell like the dumpster behind
You would think by the time my son had reached sixth grade I
would be done with backpack surprises. Long past were the days of
insects collected at recess that, to Zachary's chagrin, didn't make
it to his house alive. Likewise, he gave up turning his backpack
into a personal quarry sometime during second grade. Nowadays, the
bag just feels like he's hoarding rocks because he insists on
bringing home every one of his textbooks. No, he's not that
diligent of a student; he's afraid he'll forget an assignment and
end up with the worst of middle school horrors-homework
The days of trying to clean an inch of orange frosting from his
front flap after he's discovered that leftover Halloween party
cupcakes do not travel well may be over, but I can only imagine
what new items will appear in the years ahead.
Just as his backpack designs have transformed from Clifford the
Big Red Dog to Star Wars to plain black, someday I'll probably be
seeing college applications instead of field trip permission forms
and pink paper with a girl's phone number on it rather than torn
notebook paper featuring sloppily penned strategy a fellow
11-year-old has provided for an Xbox game they both love.
And I'll probably wish I could unpack squid parts again.
Beth Braccio Hering is a freelance writer who lives and works in South Elgin.
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