My Son The Rummaging Pack Rat

You are the reason I check pockets while doing laundry. You call it your magic pocket, the one that always seems to house a snack and a half. It is charming on a walk and less so between the washer and dryer. So when I remember I empty them. The pouches on your shirts are the worst. You would probably say the best. They have sticks carefully peeled of their bark and Lego pieces and dollar bills so crumpled they are as soft as the shirt I found them in. There are hotel key cards and coffee loyalty cards that you have collected as I clean out my wallet. Things you bring into the world and take from it. Tactile if not practical.

You scavenge.

You come to me after rummaging in the bathroom. Smile turning up your lips, a lock of hair falling across your face unchecked by the hands clasped behind your back holding its treasure. Look! The Mexico tile.

The hotel where we stayed had recently built plunge pools in front of each casita. Like a movie set the illusion of luxury was spoiled when you looked too closely. Around the edges they had left tiles and cigarette butts behind. You collected them there, that vacation when you were four. In a swim suit and your winter hat you filled tote bags with tiles. You lined them up into armies, and planted them like gardens.

Today you are seven. Almost eight you explain to anyone who asks your age. We are months from your birthday, but you have learned rounding so almost eight has roots in real math.

I exclaim at your memory, the trip, half your life ago if your math can be trusted. You lift an eyebrow at me. “Who wouldn’t remember Mexico?” As you say this you are at work on the bowl next to my bed. Out comes the Chapstick, the green plastic finger nails from a Halloween costume that have stayed on as backscratchers. There is a small tin, a container within a container and you want to discover its secrets. It is a sample hand cream, but this doesn’t disappoint you. You inhale deeply and place it the appropriate distance from my nose to share your pleasure. The search is done.

When we leave the house you fill entire tote bags. It always starts with a snack like cheese sticks, which have emerged as not the best car food. You always fill water bottles, often with water. Into the bag goes sunscreen even though you dislike it. A napkin. A pen. You try to fit the shoebox that you have just stocked with art supplies but it strains the bag so you select only a few items including stickers and the scissors that surprisingly passed muster with the TSA on our last flight.

Your brother is a sorter. Pokemon cards with Pokemon cards, Legos with Legos. That doesn’t make you feel prepared. So into the tote go the polished stones and pennies, rainbow rubber bands, books and notebooks.

A true mixed bag.

I try to determine if this is a vestige of small childhood or something characterological and decide it doesn’t matter. It just is. You have wallets and punches and backpacks. You have boxes and tins and tubs. You have every valentines day bag you have ever decorated. Every goodie bag you have received. You have packed and re-packed them with what you need.

Every container is there for you to fill.

Just as you are a container to be filled.

Guest post written by Anna Palmer. Anna is a freelance writer based in Denver, CO. She writes about the highs and lows of daily live including sex, parenting, cat pee, bi-polar disorder and the NFL. In her free time she teaches her boys creative swear words, vows never again to use pen on the Saturday Times puzzle, and thinks deeply about how she is not exercising. Her writing can be found on Babble, In The Powder Room, Ravishly, Good Men Project, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Crazy Good Parent,,, Maria Shriver and YourTango. She also does a fair amount of navel gazing on her own blog at You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter. Photo by Jana Glass.