Thing I cannot explain #1:
I have never been a fan of wheelie backpacks for kids. In Vermont, when there were kids with wheelie backpacks I would think that their parents were allowing them to miss out on a right of passage from childhood – the famous childhood backpack slog. Kind of like school pictures, but slightly worse. If it’s not my job to give my kids things to be bitter and angry about in the future, than who’s job is it? And carrying the kids’ backpacks for them? No way, man.
Once we arrived in France, I noticed a disproportionate number of kids with wheelie backpacks. What gives? Seriously, what kind of work ethic can you develop without slogging your pack on your back?
One day Owen was complaining about the weight of his pack on the way to school and I broke my cardinal rule – I offered to carry his pack for a little bit of our walk just to cease the complaining. After about 5 minutes, I felt like I needed to sit down for a rest. His pack was outrageously heavy.
All the kids in France carry all of their notebooks (of which there are many) and books to and from school every day. I quickly realized the reason the kids in France are missing out on a childhood ritual is solely because their bags are SO INCREDIBLY HEAVY. And maybe their parents aren’t into parental-imposed torture, like some others are…….
Later that afternoon at school I was speaking to another parent about it and she told me that there is an epidemic of childhood back problems here. I was not at all surprised, since my brief encounter with Owen’s pack in the morning put a kink in my own back. I came to the realization that if my kids are going to be bitter and angry at me in the future, I should at least want them to have a fair chance of standing up to be bitter and angry. Off to buy wheelie backpacks.
This is where the story gets really interesting.
We were going to order them from LL Bean, which (as far as the customer reviews are concerned) makes a fairly mean wheelie backpack. But after realizing that the shipping alone to France would be $85, I had to move to plan B, which involved surfing the web. We suddenly landed on the Quicksilver website and happily found that all of their wheelie packs were on sale – super score! And Owen’s friend Evan has one at school and it’s super cool – double score!
I ordered then and the kids waited anxiously for them to arrive. I fully expected to have to pick them up from the post office because they would clearly not fit in our mailbox and it is forbidden for the mail carrier to leave packages outside your door. A few days later I got a note in the mailbox that said that our package had arrive d and I could pick it up. However the address on the note was not the post office – it looked like another place entirely.
I got the boys at school that afternoon and told them we were going to take a walk into town to pick up our package. I got out my trusty iPhone gps and punched in the address. That led us to the local……………gym? The boys couldn’t believe that I had the right address and I could hardly believe it myself, except since living here I have realized that there is no normal. Why shouldn’t one assume that you should be able to pick up a package at the local gym? I have learned not to question my new reality.
So in we went to the gym.
Somewhere in the back of my mind I was thinking that this gym may have an account with Quicksilver which would at least partially explain why we had to pick up our package there. I was clearly grasping for any explanation.
When we arrived at the gym, I told the man working there (and the only person in the entire gym) that I had a package that I was supposed to pick up. He said ok, stood up, went to a broom closet and pulled out a package with our 2 wheelie backpacks. All without explanation. Not only was there no obvious Quicksilver relationship that I could find, there was no store at this gym.
I really wish I were creative enough to make this stuff up – instead, I have learned to embrace the strangeness.
Thing I cannot explain #2:
This giant French slug.