Days Like These

Finders Keepers

She says “jackpot!” I say “flea factory.”

By Katie Cantrell

A memory came up recently on social media that I had completely forgotten. When it happened, I thought I’d remember it forever. But as you probably know, “Oh, I’ll never forget this” is about as true as “I’m sure I’ll be less busy next week.” If I hadn’t written the story down at the time, it would be long gone. 

Please don’t infer the unspoken lesson here as, “I hope you’re writing things down, or you’ll have no memory of your kids’ childhoods.” Although I’ve managed to record some funny and touching stories, the undocumented anecdotes could fill volumes. Among my retrospective parenting missteps is a failure to purchase, let alone fill out, a baby book for my third child, who will hit double digits by the time this story goes to print. We’re all just doing the best we can, and hopefully the kids will grade our parenting on a curve. 

Anyway, back to the story.

In fourth grade, Riley arrived home from school one day clutching the largest teddy bear I had ever seen. It was the one Costco stocks right by the entrance each Christmas; you probably know exactly the one I mean.

“Mom! Look what I found!” she exclaimed, clutching it tightly against her.

“You found it?” I asked, thinking, I’m not sure I want to hear the rest. And I really wish you weren’t hugging it. “Where?”

“It was sitting on the garbage can in the alley over there!”

Oh, sweet holy Moses. “On the garbage can?” 

The garbage cans in our neighborhood are the big black plastic communal ones about the size of dumpsters that dot the alleys between houses. Not that I can imagine a type of garbage can that would be synonymous with “a great place to find treasures,” but this particular model was certainly not one of them. 

“Yeah, but it wasn’t in the garbage can! It’s clean! I can’t believe I found this!”

Right. Nothing is ever disgusting if it’s just on top of the garbage can. “I need you to put that on the porch. And stop touching it.”

Her expression went from “I am the Indiana Jones of Montana and I have found the Holy Grail!” to “Mom craps on all my dreams.” I asked if she’d thought about why someone would put a pristine-seeming toy in the trash and explained the concept of tiny insects that like to snuggle into cloth until they get close enough to bite someone. She was positive the bear was clean. I was positive that we weren’t going to willingly invite bedbugs/fleas/lice to join the family.

“I’ll make you a deal. If you can figure out who put it in the trash and find out why, you might be able to keep it. If you can find them, and they tell us they just didn’t want it anymore, I’ll be able to decide whether it’s safe to bring it in the house.”

Of course, I didn’t really want a teddy bear the size of an overstuffed chair adorning our living quarters. But it’s hard to look your child’s unbridled joy in the face and slam the door on it. And, of course, luck runs this kid’s way. As we turned down the alley so she could show me which delightful garbage can it came from, we saw a large U-Haul truck parked behind one of the houses. The family was moving to Arizona and one of their kids had decided she didn’t want to take the bear. 

They were happy it had a new home. Riley was overjoyed. And I … well, I was just happy I didn’t have to drive to the store for a box of Nix.  

Find more of Katie Cantrell’s thoughts on parenting and life at www.katiecantrellwrites.com or on social media @katiecantrellwrites. 

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.