As another school year draws to a close, parents everywhere have prepared for the big thud.
They know that's the sound of backpacks, bags and boxes being dropped at back doors, on hallway floors, near kitchen tables.
The school supplies have landed. Their arrival is never smooth.
Some supplies are worn, tattered and stained. Others, once rescued, are reusable. Contents include everything from graded papers to colored pencils with broken tips.
The Pink Pearl erasers that were once, well, pink are now blackened. The "Take Home" folder can handle no more taping to survive. The gym clothes inside the drawstring bag are ... let's just send those straight down the laundry chute.
And the plastic safety goggles? We forgot all about needing to buy those.
Sorting through these things is one thing. Getting them all home is another.
Our daughter, a seasoned middle schooler, describes the scene this way:
"Some kids tend to wait to the very last day to clean everything out of their lockers. For most people, this consists of at least one or two locker shelves, a Locker Ladder (a hanging canvas organizer), a tissue box or two that was never handed in to a teacher in the beginning of the school year, at least three big binders, and usually one or two smaller binders, a bottle of hand sanitizer, or maybe many empty small hand sanitizers, a ton of folders that are ripping at the seams, extra papers and maybe even winter boots or jewelry that you could never find at home because they were stuffed in the back of your locker."
And, she added, some kids end up bringing all of their stuff home in just one day in two or three giant garbage bags that look as if they are about to burst open any minute.
"Usually, these kids are stuck taking the bus, trying to fit down the small aisles to their seats, hitting people in the face by accident with the garbage bags as they make their way to the seat," she said.
Do I have a perfect solution for sorting through it all? Of course not.
All I know is that through the years we have selected some of her classroom art to frame and hang in our home. Prized papers and notes have been filed in a "To Keep" folder.
Salvageable folders have been put to good use around the house or kept in a safe place for the next school year. Blank pages from black-and-white marble composition books have been used for writing grocery lists.
Our daughter likes to save the folders and binders filled with her schoolwork from various subjects – at least for now.
I, of course, still can't part with many of the mementos from elementary school.
Oh, and if anyone is ever looking for a "gently used" Pink Pearl eraser, you've come to the right place.