The Home Team / If backpacks could talk
Published 7:42 pm, Thursday, September 23, 2010
Years ago I collaborated with a writer friend on a script called BP -- The Talking Backpack. It was intended as the pilot for a TV series for little kids, and my partner and I thought it had "can't-miss" written all over it. Let the record show, however, that we never got past first base with the parade of producers we approached.
While I was working on the visual details of that script, I'd keep in my mind the image of a backpack that my youngest son Robby had chosen from the L.L. Bean catalogue when he was in first grade. It was dark blue with black trim and silver reflective piping, and we'd had his initials -- RKH -- stitched on in silver as well.
Earlier this week, Robby was in his office (the comfy green couch in the den, directly across from the TV), simultaneously working on his homework and fine-tuning his fantasy football roster. His backpack was on the floor near the couch, undoubtedly exactly where he'd dropped it when he came home from practice. Something about it caught my eye.
"Robby," I said, "that backpack really reminds me of the one you had back in first grade."
"It is what?"
"It is the backpack I had back in first grade."
"That's impossible. You're still using the same backpack you got when you were in first grade?"
I couldn't believe it. He was telling me I was looking at the very backpack that had accompanied him through London on the back of his stroller when, as a six-year-old, he adamantly refused to sightsee on foot, and would only acquiesce to tour Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey if he were wheeled.
It was the selfsame backpack that I used to see him dragging along the pavement as he walked home from the corner after school, totally absorbed in kicking a rock along the road, unaware that some crazy adult with nothing better to do was spying on him from a second-floor bedroom window.
Yes, this was the backpack with the badly frayed patch on the lower lefthand corner, because Robby had sworn up and down he was sure there was no food of any sort in there, but Ricky, our beagle, knew better -- and chewed right through the cloth until he was able to snag the Reese's Pieces that he'd been desperately sniffing for the better part of three weeks.
The backpack sitting on the floor of the den was the one we were sure we'd seen the last of when Robby left it overnight up in the nosebleed seats of the cavernous, 50,000-seat Franklin Field in Philadelphia after his brother Greg's college graduation. I went to stadium security the next day, on the off-chance someone had turned it in -- and there was the blue-and-black-and-silver backpack, refusing to get lost.
That backpack is so old that some of its parts have names for activities Robby barely even remembers. We still refer to the third-largest pouch as the Hebrew compartment, because that's where he used to put his Hebrew School books back in the long-gone days when he'd go to the temple directly from school.
Hard to imagine, but when he first started lugging the sack I was now looking at, he was a little boy barely bigger than the backpack, who commuted to and from school on a yellow Dattco school bus. And now he's still lugging it -- as a high school senior who drives to school and is in the midst of applying to college.
If this backpack could talk, like the star of my ill-fated pilot, what would it say? Probably something like, "Dude -- when you go off to college, I think it might be time for a new backpack."
Westporter Hank Herman shares his Home Team column every other Friday in the Westport News.