The moment our son Henry joined the Scouts, Bernadette wanted to join too. A year younger and twice as willful, our daughter has spent her short years on this planet applying her will to anything put in front of her. She’s sweet and funny and smart, but Lord help you if you try to resist whatever plan she woke up with in her head that morning. So, a few days after Henry joined Scouts, Bernie became a Girl Guide, and quickly undertook what can only be described as a bloodless coup over her Unit. Within weeks she was coming home and issuing orders to me about the things they would be doing and what she would need.
The first camping trip was, in Bernie’s mind, a disaster. She found the evening intolerably boring; she wanted to go hiking in the woods and no one would let her because they were worried about losing Guides along the way. For Bernie, of course, losing some of her fellow Guides went under the category of Acceptable Losses, and so she came home and began furiously working on a solution. When I was handed a curt order to purchase ten small pink backpacks from the Clear Bag store, I knew Bernie had cooked up a plan.
It was a simple solution. The next time her Unit went camping, all the Guides were equipped with their clear backpacks and a portable battery-operated lantern, which was turned on and placed in their new packs. The Pink Backpack brigade was then able to brave the dark wilderness around them without having any trouble seeing the girl in front of them, or locating each other at a distance. The girls had an exciting evening of being up way past their bedtime and adventuring in the woods. Bernie came home and slept for three days straight, a collection of crickets in a cigar box under her bed, and I got a call from her Unit Leader congratulating me on having such a determined, energetic girl. I wasn’t sure if that was meant as praise or sympathy, but I thanked her anyway.
And the bags are great for these outdoors activities, too, as they’re sturdy and a cinch to clean. When I dumped Bernie’s out after her hike, it was basically a bag full of twigs, dirt, and candy wrappers. But one session with the hose and it was good as new.
Since then, Bernie’s idea has spread to Trick-or-Treating as well, and now in our neighborhood you can look out and see strings of lit-up backpacks snaking around the houses. Parents even use different types of bulbs or colors or decals on the clear bags to identify their own kids out of the crowd. Bernie doesn’t always get credit for the idea, but she’s not shy about claiming it when the subject comes up.
My family has an old saying (well, it goes back to the 1970s when my Mom and Dad got married): fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice and I deserve it. So the first time I lost all of our possessions on the beach, I was angry at the world. The second time … shame is probably a better word. And I vowed there would be no fourth time.
We all love the beach. As often as my husband and I can, we pack up the kids and get into the sun, slathered in sunscreen and carrying multiple bags filled with snacks, more sunscreen, backup sunscreen, books, magazines, more snacks, and even more sunscreen. When you come from a long line of pale, freckled people and have children, sunscreen by the drum full is an absolute must. When you have kids of any shade snacks are just as essential. As any Mom will tell you, children sans snacks are like gremlins sent to torment you.
So, we hit the beach, find an empty spot (sometimes requiring negotiation with people who have no idea what the phrase shared resource means) and enjoy ourselves. I’ve gotten good at that part. The part where we shake out the sand and wearily gather up our things, not so much, because twice I picked up someone else’s bags and carried someone else’s damp towels, juices, and trashy novels home. The bags weren’t identical, but were close enough to my sun-tired eyes.
My family, filled with comedians, were not kind to me about these events.
The solution was a lot easier than I would have thought: I went searching for beach-appropriate baggage and found the clear Large Tote Bag from The Clear Bag Store. These bags are tough, waterproof, and completely clear. Those three things mean they can withstand the less-than-gentle treatment they get from my family (and, if I’m being honest, from me), they can handle a soaking when you’re spending your whole day sitting inches from the water, and when the time comes to stand up, bleary-eyed and covered in dried salt and pack up for home, a quick glance tells you immediately if you’re gathering your son’s collection of beach debris, or some other child’s collection of slightly different beach debris.
Even better? When you get home and leave the bags in the mud room for a week so they can get as gamy and crusty as possible, cleaning them is a simple matter of dumping their contents into the washer or garbage as appropriate and hosing them out in the yard. I will never launder a canvas tote bag again and that is a very good thing.
Since making the big Clear Bag Switchover, I haven’t lost a single item at the beach, and I no longer fear the day after as Clean the Sand Out of Your Shorts Day.