A Household Word
Losing It

My kids are such losers. Every day they lose something: soccer cleats, lunch money, permission slips, shoes. How can someone lose their shoes? They lose stuff all year round, but in the winter, they are in top form. Maybe itís because thereís so much more to misplace.

When my 8-year-old left for school yesterday he had on a jacket (a nice one from that mail-order catalog with golden retriever puppies on the cover), gloves, a hat, boots and a backpack with his lunch and sneakers. He was carrying his violin and a plastic bag with shark teeth wrapped in tissue paper for show and tell. As he trudged to the bus stop, I waved goodbye and thought, "Thereís no way that all of this stuff will come back."

And it didnít. When he walked through the door at 2:45 p.m., he had on a short-sleeved T-shirt and goosebumps.

"Whereís your jacket?" I asked with motherly concern.

"In my backpack," he replied, as he headed for the refrigerator.

"And where is your backpack?" I probed, as he stood in front of the open freezer.

"I donít know," he said, casually biting into an ice-cream sandwich. "I think I might have left it on the bus with my boots."

We drove to the school to look for his stuff. The soggy lump in the far corner of the playground was his backpack, but the jacket was gone.

So I combed through the lost-and-found box in the principalís office. None of my kidsí stuff is ever there, but the sheer number of jackets, boots and even underwear is comforting. It makes me believe that my kids arenít the only ones who have problems keeping their clothes on. I checked the name tags on the Gap sweatshirts, lingered over the name-brand ski gloves and fought the urge to use the contents of the lost-and-found to completely upgrade my familyís wardrobe.

In early December, I tried to thwart my childrenís losing streak. I bought a dozen pairs of those cheap, one-size-fits-all, little stretchy gloves. All black. I thought I was brilliant. I figured if a kid lost one glove, there would still be another to make a matching pair. And another and another and another, until they had all been left in the playground, dropped on the sidewalk, kicked under a car seat or abducted by aliens.

It took about a week for my kids to lose all 24 little black gloves. I call that a success, because genuine leather ski gloves and down parkas disappear even faster. I bet that you could calculate it mathematically: the value of the item divided by the wind-chill factor equals the number of days until itís lost.

I donít know what happens to all of the things that my kids lose, and it haunts me. I imagine that someday Iíll discover a secret room in my house that is crammed with lost stuff. But by the time I find that room, my son will have outgrown his winter jacket.

Until then, I like to think that somewhere thereís a child whoís needier than mine. This winter, however, he is outfitted to the max. Heís got a really nice mail-order parka, boots that have only been worn once to the school bus stop, and a dozen pairs of little black stretchy gloves.

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