the "me" bag

I am sitting here in front of my desk (coffee table) with a large brown paper bag folded flat on top of it. Stapled to the corner is a note from Calvin’s first grade teacher. The bag is a “ME” bag. Instructions are to help your child get creative and fill their bag with things that show off how special they are. We are meant to decorate it together and fill it with items to help the students learn more about each other.

I’ll be decorating and filling Calvin’s “ME” bag alone.

If Calvin could, he’d be helping me cut stars out of metallic tissue paper and foil using small plastic-handled, rounded scissors. Perhaps we’d be going to the craft store together, shuffling down the aisles giddily choosing iridescent papers, shiny ribbons, neon sparkles or feathers. The “ME” bag would really be his ... not mine.

If Calvin could he would pick out a handful of his favorite things to share with his class. No doubt he’d choose his orange and blue plastic football that Nick gave him to play with in the bath. He might even toss in his worn copy of Barnyard Dance, the one whose chewed-up edges are starting to look like plaster of Paris, a few pages stuck together having been slimed. I bet he’d try to fit in his little yellow piano with its four colorful keys, even though he bites it rather than plunking out a tune.

Come to think of it, though, if Calvin could do any of these things, he’d likely be choosing other items to fill the bag, like maybe a copy of Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel—his dad’s favorite childhood book. Perhaps he’d include a photo of the three of us on our bicycles. I imagine he’d stuff something in there like a kite, a balsa wood airplane or a Wiffle ball. He might even include a pack of bubble gum or a hula hoop which, of course, wouldn’t fit, so he'd fasten the bag to it.

But Calvin seems to have no clue, seems totally oblivious to the joys of art, beauty, creation, imagination. He can't even put a crayon to paper. At times—such as these—this weighs heavily on my heart. No, I don’t take my kid to the museum to sop up cultural experiences. No, I don’t—can't—take my kid to see Pixar movies. No, my kid doesn’t ride his hand-decorated bike in parades, make sandcastles at the beach or sing in school pageants. He doesn't read me stories he’s written, draw pictures for me or show me his neat penmanship on wide-space lined paper.

I so desperately crave these things for my child—for me. My heart is bursting wishful tears. If only I could teach him and show him and share with him the things I dreamed for so long that I'd be doing with my child. If it didn’t all go so wrong (what the hell went wrong?) he’d be such an extraordinary, ordinary kid. That would be so incredibly amazing, I think.

As it is, my boy is—simply put—extraordinary and brimming with the one thing that matters most—love. And so for Calvin, I’ll be making a kick ass “ME” bag for him to bring to school and show his classmates, just to prove it once and for all.

Calvin and his "me" bag


  1. Christy,

    Calvin's "ME" bag is beautiful. It is worthy of Calvin and his mama, who, although often surrounded by the darkest of circumstances, both manage to glow with an incredible light that outdoes your foily cut-out stars. For what it may be worth, that light shines at least as far as Alaska. Thank you, as always, for sharing.

    -- Aspen

  2. dear aspen,
    thank you for writing and for saying such nice things. i hope you are well. drop me a line sometime to let me know what you are up to.
    xoxo, christy