The Blue Backpack

Posted on Posted in Stories, The Younger Years

A little story on what is what like my first day of school, while living in a homeless shelter.

My memory isn’t perfect so some of my dates and time lines might not line up. They say our brains have a defense mechanism that allows us to forget past bad memories.

Motivated forgetting is a theorized psychological defence mechanism in which people may forget unwanted memories, either consciously or unconsciously. There are times when memories are reminders of unpleasant experiences that make people angry, sad, anxious, ashamed or afraid. Motivated forgetting is a method in which people protect themselves by blocking the recall of these anxiety-arousing memories. –Bernard Weiner

A lot happened in a short time and up until now, I’ve never put much thought into it. In other words, bear with me here.


Why now? Honestly, I’m the person I am today because of the things I went through and I wouldn’t change it. If I can help just one person break free from the chains that hold so many of us to our “predestined futures” then it’s worth it to me.

With that said, onward to my story.

One of the shelters we lived in featured a very subtle form of segregation:

I must admit I was fairly excited to go to school this particular morning. It would be my first day of school and an opportunity to leave the shelter, plus be in the same place as “normal” kids.

We headed down to a room to pick up our school supplies and I get issued an all blue backpack, along with my brother. My sister gets a pink one. “Sweet!” I thought, getting a free backpack filled with school supplies. What kid doesn’t love new things? We grabbed our bags and headed out to the bus.

Looking around I noticed most of the kids on the bus had blue or pink backpacks. Shortly after I figured out that all the shelter kids had the same exact bags! Instantly arriving at the school everyone knew each and every one of the shelter kids. My chances of pretending to be a regular kid instantly shut down. Walking into class I could feel all eyes on me. I was the new kid and had the infamous ‘LOOK AT ME! I’M A POOR KID!’ bag, draped over my shoulder. This day couldn’t possibly get worse.

tumblr_m9qf0mum2q1qery84        <—Answered

Wrong… time to go to the front and tell a little about myself. Ummm.. where to start? I’m homeless and have this sweet bag. I like to play Frisbie with trash can lids and wiffle ball with dead animals. That may be slightly exaggerated, but I had nothing to speak of. The head hanging walk back to my desk was possibly my first walk of shame and probably where my fear of speaking in public stemmed from. Thanks teach!

Oh, but she’s not done. “Do you have a pencil?” she asks. I think so, let me check. Up to this point I haven’t opened this backpack. Surely I had a pencil though. Before I could get it open, there she was to lend a hand. I’m poor, not handicapped! She quickly tore open my bag spilling the “school supplies” of what I’m guessing were picked out in case I got kidnapped by another poor family. The items in my bag were as follows:

  • a towel
  • toothbrush and paste
  • razor…this is elementary school by the way
  • deodorant
  • bar of soap… no rope?
  • shampoo
  • foot spray?
  • pens, paper, pencils
  • lastly my dignity, which also occupied the floor now

Day one of new school, nailed it! I don’t remember how the rest of the day went, but it must have been better than that first hour. I do remember a fellow blue backpacker warning me of the dangers of wearing new shoes. Apparently getting called “new shoes” was code for you weren’t going to have shoes by the end of the day. Luckily I made it home with mine. Apparently the LA lights with the light cartridge gone weren’t worth stealing.

In case you were curious, losing a light cartridge in those shoes essentially gave you a flat tire. I felt like it was a great opportunity to work on my G-limp. Always the opportunist.

Point of this story? It can always get worse and it will always get better. Don’t let the jealousy of others’ “new shoes” get to you. At the end of the day they may have less than you.


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2 thoughts on “The Blue Backpack

  1. In case I don’t tell you enough! I think you’re absolutely Amazing and I’m so very proud of you!!! I have a love, hate relationship with your blog. I love to read your stories, even though some of them are gut wrenching for me, because we may not have had a lot, but I didn’t have to live the kind of life you did. My hate relationship is the thought of a wonderful child/boy/man to have had to ever experience that, even thought it helped to mold you into who you are today!
    I appreciate you and love you guys! Merry, Merry Christmas Hobo Sam!!!

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