One of the most traumatic events of my young life occurred in first grade. One day in the middle of autumn, at dismissal, I watched a classmate disappear out the door wearing my snorkel jacket. We both had them; many in our school did. Ours were both navy blue. But as I stood holding my classmate’s jacket up to show Mrs. Hughes, tears probably welling in my eyes, I could immediately note the differences. The fake fur on my hood was thicker, the nylon shell was stiffer, and my jacket didn’t smell like cigarette smoke and a pack of wet dogs. I went home without a jacket that day, shivering on the bus. And the next day, I had to wear the most horrific overcoat ever worn by anyone in the history of outerwear, a green-and-white-plaid catastrophe that mice would even refuse to nest in. Later that day, I went home with my own snorkel jacket once again and somehow stuffed that plaid thing into my Fat Albert lunchbox to avoid further embarrassment. It still makes me shiver, and obviously the trauma still lingers, nearly 40 years later.
At my son’s elementary school, the lost-and-found boxes are already overflowing with unclaimed hoodies, gloves, hats, and jackets. Friday afternoons, the fence around the playground looks like a yard sale, as it is strewn with misplaced and unclaimed outerwear from recess. I would think it’s one thing to watch someone else go charging home in your favorite jacket, but charging home without your own because you left it outside?
Eventually, the school principal will notify parents he is about to donate all lost-and-found items to a local charity. Some of it will be claimed. The rest will find a good home.
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