“Where’s that blue string?”
The question sounded simple enough, but when it came from the older one, I knew there might be hell to pay if I could not provide the correct answer.
I knew right away what he was referring to, simply because I had debated with him the importance of collecting the string while waiting for the bus….two months prior.
There on a drizzly morning, I watched as he picked it off of a shrub in front of the Walgreens at our stop. It was a wet six inch strand of wool from someone’s knitted sweater, scarf, or hat, and showed signs of having been there for some time. Maybe it was dropped there by a bird as it was carried through the sky, on its way to being used to tie up a loose end or add a splash of color to its winter nest. Or perhaps it was simply snagged by the sturdy and drab leaves of a plant that tried its hardest to be aesthetic, but was planted to serve the unnatural function of “wall between parking space and sidewalk.”
However it came to be there, I expressed my desire for him not to collect it, knowing full well from experience that my son would treat this object as if it were blessed by the Pope.
“Why do you need it?” I argued
“I like it!” he said plainly. And even with my sighing and warning about picking up things he found on the streets, he insisted. So since it was not a syringe or a half-used chap stick, I had to let it go.
During the bus ride downtown, he explored every facet of the string. He wrapped it around his finger until it turned purple. He pulled it tight. He rolled it into a ball. Every new “trick” he discovered he would gleefully show me, as if to continue to make his case in collecting such a wondrous and versatile material.
Eventually, when we had arrived at school the string made its way to the wild and disorganized world of the backpack, where it would stay for several more weeks.
As a parent of a commuting child, I have to make allowances for what he is able to bring in his backpack. The rules are simple enough; no food, nothing can go into class with you, anything you lose out of it in not going to be replaced. Lastly and most importantly, he needs to carry it himself (This rule in particular has stopped the transport of many rocks and large toys).
But every few months, usually spurred on by the bag no longer being able to close or a smell that is wafting out of it, I will have to dump out the contents. I do my best to separate the must have’s from the toss lot. Colored pencils, pens and books of paper are all “must haves” for the commute. Bus schedules, brochures for various places, assortments of sticks and small stones, wire, chunks of moss, leaves, small scraps of paper with “notes” on them, (and yes bits of string) all end up either recycled, back out in nature, or in the trash.
The bag gets sprayed and repacked neatly so it’s organized and able to be carried on the back of the boy. This of course has to be done away from him, or nothing would be able to get taken away. Coincidentally, this same process happens once a month in the room, but on the trash bag scale. It is during those cleaning times when I begin to worry that I will one day be watching him in the midst of an intervention on a T.V show such as “Hoarders.” I can see him sitting in the middle of a couch surrounded by boxes of road maps and jars of wool threads not understanding what the big deal is.
Luckily, I know many other kids who all have their “issues” parents start to wonder about. Sometimes it’s all about the right arm length of pajama sleeve, or not eating anything that is orange in color. I am sure my mother was slightly concerned about her youngest wearing a Tiger costume to school in April, but at the end of the day you just have to love your kid, quirks and all.
So as to be expected, he was disappointed by the fact that the blue string was gone, that I had not checked in with him before making that decision, and frustrated that I did not feel I should have to consult him. But that is par for the course for my little collector. It’s my job to both accept the need to collect, as well as police it.
Besides, he forgot all about it as soon as he found the tin can tab and green thread the next morning.