Cleaning out my son’s Lacrosse bag reminds me of a 1974 poem from Shel Silverstein in Where the Sidewalk Ends. It started several days ago when we were transferring him from one house (his father’s) to another (my house). It’s a maneuver that I have done every week now for approximately 176 weeks that never gets easier.
As dear son gets older, his stash grows. We currently now haul his gaming computer, his gaming monitor, his gaming keyboard and mouse, his USB 30 foot tangled mess of a cable. We haul his clothing bag, a reluctant Christmas present from REI, big enough to haul 3 drawers of a 5 drawer dresser, small enough to fold into a 1’ x 1’ zippered compact storage unit. If I’m lucky, the clothing has been cleaned. Often, I am not and his first stop at my house is to dump all contents onto the garage floor for further cleaning. Lastly and most recently over the last few months, we have his Lacrosse bag which he loaded into my car on Thursday afternoon and kept there for his game the following evening.
Holy mother of Gawd. The next morning at 7:30 a.m., I shuffled in my morning get-up of pajama pants, a sweatshirt (mistakenly on backwards and my “scuffs” (slip on slippers from my oldest son at Christmas) to the car to take him to school and the sweet stench of something ripe hit my nose and caused my eyes to water. Something literally died in my car overnight.
Welcome to Lacrosse.
Fast forward another night of practice, one game and another 12 hour fermenting period. I had threatened to bleach everything and was told without pause, “NO.”
So today, with the garage ventilated, I begin to unload the Lacrosse bag. Let me start my saying this wasn’t always his Lacrosse bag; this was his old clothing bag before his “Merry Christmas, here is a new duffle bag for you to schlep your clothes back and forth in.” I start with the two outer pocket and my hands hit something sticky. It is so sticky that it clings to my finger as I claim my hand back from the dark abyss of the nylon pocket. This appears to be a very forgotten about clump of nerds. As I pull the bag into a better lit area of the garage, there are clumps of nerds stuck to various parts of the zipper and seams. There are several pieces of paper stuck to one of the clumps. Upon better inspection, after peeling them apart, one by one, there is a one dollar bill, a game card and my John’s annual pass to Great America. The second end pocket holds an old mouth guard, a tooth brush, one dirty sock and small change. Mouth guard salvaged, toothbrush tossed, sock in the dirty clothes pile. Small change — that shit is going in the washing machine to uncoat itself to almost a freshly minted condition.
Now we go for broke — the main compartment. Although the foul smell emits from the compartment, the zipper is thankfully closed. I unzip and peer into its heartless, smelly soul and wish I had rubber gloves and an Ebola mask.
His uniform shorts, jersey (two – one for home, one for away), one practice pennie, under armour bottoms, 2.5 dirty pairs of Nike elite socks, three LARS bars, still in package but disintegrated beyond recognition inside, a Gatorade water bottle with an unknown substance clinging to its external self, one pair of running shoes and one pair of cleats – both size 11, chest pad, arm pads, gloves, mouth guard in mouth guard container. ALL CONTENTS AT BIOHAZARD LEVELS.
Three loads of laundry later, 3 cups of detergent and 3 cups of vinegar, one sinkful of vinegar and Palmolive in which to soak the actual moldy bag and its plastic removable moldy base floor, the jury is still out. I am not sure if I have mastered the smell of teenage gear or whether the teenage lacrosse gear has permanently penetrated my washing machine as it now smells like the gym bag. Thank goodness for our beautiful sunny day. The sun beats down on all of the padded gear, the disinfected (and de-molded) gym bag and both pairs of shoes. His clothing, while better, still has a slight tinge of something unimaginable. This may be caused by the ceremony of passing on uniforms year to year. This leaves one to wonder just exactly how much fundraising needs to be done to order new uniforms for the team and further wonder, would it help?
Those who know me understand that this is not my first rodeo. This is my third child—my third son. I have been through 25 years of school backpacks, lunchboxes (end of summer peanut butter sandwiches smashed into the bottom of their late homework assignments found the week before school starts the following August), sleepovers.
I have disemboweled Boy Scout camp backpacks and tents with uncleaned backpacking food utensils. Two particular years, I had the pleasure of full backpacks that spent three weeks in Philmont New Mexico that returned full of 21 days of clothes, underwear, gear and freeze dried food. None of these experiences have prepared me for the duffle bag associated with a sweaty team sport. I do now feel like I have graduated to a new level. Like my boys, as they level up on their gaming computers. I HAVE MASTERED A LEVEL I HAVE NEVER MASTERED BEFORE.
That being said, for all of my efforts and what I am going to call a success after I put his uniform back through a second load of hot soapy vinegar water, I offer three statements.
Statement 1 – Although he should wear a jock strap, I thank the angels that he does not as I would also have to take this garment apart and put it through the ringer.
Statement 2 – Son claims his bag is one of the cleanest on the team.
Statement 3 – I take my proverbial hat off to those moms on our Lacrosse team (of which there are several) that have multiple boys and multiple gear bags. You ladies are special people. You could literally win wars with your stealth knowledge and expertise of biohazard. I am in awe and you are my heroes.
And lastly, enjoy one of my favorite Shel Silverstein poems – and as you read through it, remember – ALWAYS EMPTY YOUR GYM BAG OUT.
“Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout
Would not take the garbage out!
She’d scour the pots and scrape the pans,
Candy the yams and spice the hams,
And though her daddy would scream and shout,
She simply would not take the garbage out.
And so it piled up to the ceilings:
Coffee grounds, potato peelings,
Brown bananas, rotten peas,
Chunks of sour cottage cheese.
It filled the can, it covered the floor,
It cracked the window and blocked the door
With bacon rinds and chicken bones,
Drippy ends of ice cream cones,
Prune pits, peach pits, orange peel,
Gloppy glumps of cold oatmeal,
Pizza crusts and withered greens,
Soggy beans and tangerines,
Crusts of black burned buttered toast,
Gristly bits of beefy roasts. . .
The garbage rolled on down the hall,
It raised the roof, it broke the wall. . .
Greasy napkins, cookie crumbs,
Globs of gooey bubble gum,
Cellophane from green baloney,
Rubbery blubbery macaroni,
Peanut butter, caked and dry,
Curdled milk and crusts of pie,
Moldy melons, dried-up mustard,
Eggshells mixed with lemon custard,
Cold french fried and rancid meat,
Yellow lumps of Cream of Wheat.
At last the garbage reached so high
That it finally touched the sky.
And all the neighbors moved away,
And none of her friends would come to play.
And finally Sarah Cynthia Stout said,
“OK, I’ll take the garbage out!”
But then, of course, it was too late. . .
The garbage reached across the state,
From New York to the Golden Gate.
And there, in the garbage she did hate,
Poor Sarah met an awful fate,
That I cannot now relate
Because the hour is much too late.
But children, remember Sarah Stout
And always take the garbage out!
Shel Silverstein, 1974