It is already back-to-school time here, if you can believe it. (Who schedules school to start mid-August? People who hate fun and all that is good, that is who.)
I still get a little thrill when school starts, an echo of childhood memories: new clothes, new pencils. Mostly the new clothes, though. I still like to go shopping for myself around September.
I remember picking out a couple of new fall outfits and not wanting to wait to wear them -- even if cooler weather was still a good month away. I grew up in the Midwest, where there is a marked difference between summer and fall temperatures, but I did not let that discourage me from wearing that wool skirt, even if it was still blazing hot on the first day of school.
For the past 15 years I’ve lived in Southern California, where there is not a huge difference between August and October. Don’t let anyone tell you we don’t have seasons here, though -- we absolutely do! Something about the air changes right around Halloween. We get chilly in the winter. It rains. Sometimes we wake up in the morning and it’s 40 degrees.
I can feel all of you who experience real weather rolling your eyes from here, and that is OK. I acknowledge your annoyance, and it is valid. I’m only bringing this up as a fact of life here in the Los Angeles area: Yes, we do own jackets and coats. It can get downright chilly here.
With that in mind, I fully consider back-to-school time to be the time of year that every piece of outerwear I buy for my son disappears, one by one.
It starts in September, when it is cool in the mornings but 90 degrees by afternoon. I send Oliver to school in shorts, a T-shirt, and a light jacket. He comes home in a shirt and shorts. The jacket, my friends, is gone.
Sometimes I find it, abandoned on the playground with the other jackets. Sad little piles of jackets, flung off in a moment of overheated fun on the monkey bars, litter the blacktop. This is always the first stop in my lost jacket quest. Sometimes I find it in the lost and found. And sometimes, just sometimes, I never see it again.
I have not taken the time to estimate how many dollars’ worth of jackets my eight-year-old has lost during his school career, but I assure you it is at least a few gel manicures’ worth.
It’s not only the jackets, though. It’s the hoodies. It’s the long-sleeved T-shirts over short sleeves. It’s sweaters. Sweaters!
And before you ask: YES, I write Oliver’s name inside all his clothes. This makes no difference in the Bermuda Triangle of childrens’ garments, a.k.a. the local elementary school.
What happens to all of this fabric? Where does it go? Does it go home with some other kid whose parents never happen to notice that the name "OLIVER" is written all over the inside collar of that nice fleece pullover? Stolen by hoodie gnomes? I do not know. All I know is I am tired of replacing these things, and to borrow a phrase from every parent ever, I am not made of money, you know.
So here’s my plan for this year: I will not spend more than $10 on any long-sleeved item of clothing for the kiddo, including a winter coat. I will stock up on sale items. I will scour consignment shops and the local Goodwill. And as Khaleesi is my witness, I will make Oliver buy a replacement jacket using his own money every time he loses one.
Did I lose all my jackets, sweaters, hoodies, and long-sleeved outermost layers when I was his age? I think maybe not, or I would remember a mighty punishment from my single-and-struggling mother.
Did you lose all your jackets when you were a kid? Does your kid lose all of his or her stuff, or is it just mine? And do you think making Oliver sew his own outerwear from now on is too harsh? WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO KEEP A JACKET, PEOPLE?
Somer complains about lost jackets on Twitter: @somersherwood.