October is a month to think about death. The leaves are changing and the wind is finally bringing a chill. Today is the 16th anniversary of the death of my father. This morning I was faced with a different kind of loss, that of my longtime backpack.
I’d like to take this chance to say a few words to L.L. Bean, the makers of the recently deceased bag. Their contact form sadly only allows 2000 characters, and I’m afraid I’m waxing rather verbose about the loss of such a close companion.
Dear L.L. Bean,
My name is Annamarie and I am writing you today because I am equal parts sad and grateful. I’d like to tell you the story of my backpack.
In junior high and the majority of high school I went through one backpack a year. I have always kept a busy schedule and often have to carry many things, and my backpacks simply were never up to the task. By the end of a year my backpacks were always torn, ripped, and falling apart. Finally my mom had had enough, and she asked me to find a backpack that, while it might cost marginally more, would last longer than one academic year. It was then, in early 2009, that I ordered my backpack from L.L. Bean.
I have had that same L.L. Bean backpack by my side for nearly the last 8 years. It was by my side through my last year of high school and all 5 years of undergraduate study. It has been with me in every class and on every road trip across the western part of the country. It has been camping by creeks in Arizona, traveling across England by bus, and on a summer studying abroad in Ireland. It went to marching band rehearsals, bonfires, and meetings. More recently it has come with me as I moved to Japan to be an English teacher and on many of my adventures here including an overnight hike to watch the sunrise from the summit of Mt. Fuji.
This backpack has been through monsoons and blizzards. It has been my pillow on busses, benches, and trains around the world. It has been soaked through by rain, covered in mud, filled with sand, thrown into trucks and squished under airplane seats. I have lived out of it for weeks at a time and it has never once torn, frayed, or otherwise broken.
I envisioned my life with this backpack. I fully expected to bring it with me on my trips to Hokkaido and Thailand over the next year and when I leave Japan for graduate school next summer. I have grown up with my backpack. It has always been there with me for whatever I needed.
Alas nothing in life is forever, and today when I went to pack for this weekend (a quick hike with my students on Friday and then taking the bullet train down to Osaka) I discovered that my trusty L.L. Bean backpack had succumbed not to the 7 years of significant wear and tear, but was in the end a victim of the Japanese climate. It is covered, inside and out, with mold.
It is hard to have to say goodbye to something that has been a part of your life for so long. It is indeed harder still to say goodbye to something that was in my life nearly as long as my father was, now 16 years deceased. Unlike a father, however, backpacks can hypothetically be replaced. I am not sure when I will be able to buy a new backpack as I am currently trying to save as much money as possible, but I hope that my next backpack will be just as trustworthy and go with me on even more adventures. Choosing who (or what) will have your back is a big choice, and I’m glad I made the choice I did back in 2009.
All of this is to just to say thank you, L.L. Bean, for the backpack you made me. It was a good product and I will miss it.