The Absent-Minded Professor (ok, Student)


Yesterday, while C&T played catch and BigG worked on his bike, I sat with my face in the sun thinking about Clyde’s monstrous backpack and what it might reflect about his character. Two feet by two feet, Clyde’s olive drab behemoth surpasses his breadth by 18 inches and weighs approximately 900 pounds—at least that was my guess. After I sent Clyde to weigh his pet mammoth, I learned I was wrong. At age 13, Clyde weighs in proudly at 93.3 pounds after two meals, a can of chips, and two 24-ounce bottles of Gatorade. Clyde weighs 114.3 with his pack minus some of its usual contents, including a lunch, water bottle, track suit, warm-up pants and sweat shirt, which I figure would add another three pound

Twenty-four pounds is 25% of Clyde’s total weight, and he carries the army-green fatty every day to and from the bus stop, to and from the track field, and around his school all day long. The child has never used his locker, which the janitor will have to cut open at the end of the year because I’m quite certain that Clyde’s forgotten the combination and I know that I have.

The question is, why does Clyde lug around a stuffed pack carrying all of his textbooks, notebooks, homework assignments (even graded ones), random school tools, and pounds worth of what any sane person would consider trash? No matter how I spin it, the answer points to Clyde’s organizational skills or, rather, lack thereof. He’s compensating, aware that if he offloaded at home or in his locker some of the non-essentials, he would surely forget or lose some of the essentials.

Clyde has the frustrating, charming, kind but scatterbrained innocence associated with the stereotypical absent-minded professor. His focus on the big picture at the expense of details causes problems for the poor guy—problems more serious than a heavy backpack. Just two weeks ago, he said in a panic: “I’ve got a concert tonight at 6:30!” It was 6:25pm. The week before that, he called from school and, in a small voice said, “Mom, I left my tuba at band camp.” Band camp was at a music retreat that is 90 minutes away. Last year, in preparation for the Solo and Ensemble Festival, I made a checklist to help him remember everything he needed for the judged performance. I failed to include “mouthpiece,” which he remembered 30 minutes before his performance. Assuming adherence to traffic laws, I was a 30-minute drive from home. In a testament to adrenaline and bad driving, I got the mouthpiece, and Clyde bravely held back tears to perform.

But the essence of Clyde is heartachingly endearing. For one thing, Clyde is without guile. Last week, while I was making dinner, he plopped down on a barstool and said, “You know what’s really cool about being a twin? Since we’re in most of the same classes, we only have to do half our homework: Tanner takes half, I take the other, and then we swap.” And against his own nature, Clyde never forgets to say thank you. Sometimes, I don’t even know why he’s thanking me. The other day, he made breakfast for himself and Tanner and after cleaning up their mess said, “Thanks Mom.” I said, “For what?” “For making my lunch, of course!”

He gave me a smile and a hug before lopping off to start his trek to the bus stop. Complete with his 900 lbs. 24 lbs of stuff.


About Linda

Linda spent thirteen years functioning as a working mom (where “functioning” grossly overstates her mental condition and “working” means “income-contributing”). Recently, she joined the ranks of stay-at-home moms (where “stay-at-home” means “working-for-free”), managing her household of six: herself, hubby “BigG,” daughter “Jay” (b.1994), identical tweens “Clyde” and “Tanner” (b.1998), and rescue dog “Lola” (b.1996?). Without diapers or refrigerator letters to explain her new status, Linda spends too much time justifying—to herself—her zero-earnings existence, which leads her to occasionally go where few moms bother to tread, like the end of a 20-foot ladder installing remote-control blinds. Having bluffed her way through toddler- and childhood, Linda only hopes that she and her kids can survive the angst and drama (and jacked-up auto insurance premiums) that precede adulthood. So far so good: C&T are kind, smart, happy guys who are easily entertained. And aside from periodically exuding PMS-induced tension, Jay is an atypical teen who is not really into fashion or boys and actually likes her mom and dad.

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