Wednesday, March 30, 2011

e's Favorite Things: My L.L.Bean Backpack

When I was in Michigan last week I had a book signing in my home town of Rochester Hills. As luck would have it, a nasty sleet storm whipped up about 1.5 hours before my event was scheduled to begin, and a lot of people I'd been looking forward to seeing again or meeting for the first time couldn't make it. Heck, I didn't even want to go out in that weather! But duty called.

One of the brave souls who toughed it out was my former classmate Leon -- we went to Michigan Business School together and I hadn't seen him since 1996! While many of you know me as "e" (which I took on as a shortened nickname after being called "egrrl" by my co-workers during my years in the Internet industry), Leon always used to call me "ESO" (pronounced e-so). Why? Because of a backpack with those initials (which are, of course, MY initials) that NEVER LEFT MY SIDE during college. When I found out that Leon was planning to come to my signing, I made sure to bring my backpack with me for the big reunion.

And here we are!

Yay! The backpack was totally feelin' the love, I'm sure of it.

What I wanted to focus on today was the fact that even though I finally "retired" this beloved L.L.Bean backpack last year (I got it in 1992 -- so it had been on duty for nearly two decades!), I can't bring myself to throw it out. Nor could I bring myself to mail it into L.L.Bean to have two of the broken zippers fixed. They have a lifetime guarantee on their products and I knew they'd be able to breathe some new life into my backpack, but I just couldn't bear the thought of it getting lost in the mail.

I did check to see if they still make this same item, though... and they do! Here's what it looks like brand-spankin' new:

I'm assuming I'm not the only person in the world who has a somewhat irrational attachment to an inanimate object. In fact, I know I'm not. For me, my backpack represents the best times of my life: college, grad school, all of my vacations, and all of my travels for work. In fact, even though it was totally busted at the time, killed my shoulders and back and had lost absolutely all of its structure and shape, there was no doubt in my mind that I would bring my ESO backpack with me when I finally checked the seventh continent off of my To Visit list. How couldn't I? It had gone with me to all of the other six!

You can see its strap here as I get ready to board the Endeavour to Antarctica.

Last year I finally had to break down and buy a new backpack (while keeping ESO on standby in a nice comfy spot in my closet), and I absolutely love it. It's functional, sturdy, provides silky padding for my laptop, and is comfortable to wear while trekking through airports or around cities. But it has no soul... it has no character.

It will never be ESO.

- e


Lani said...

After the nuclear war that wipes out civilization, LLBean backpacks will be the only thing left on earth (besides cockroaches) - I'm sure of it!! I won't buy my boys anything but LLBean for their school packs. They *never* die. Seriously. Worth. Every. Penny.

Julie said...

Hi e - I'm writing a book about 50 objects I own that have little or no monetary value, but have big stories to tell. Since I plan to photograph each object, obviously I still have to be in possession of these objects to tell their stories.

One object I don't having is my school bag from college. It was from the GAP, canvas in a black and white houndstooth check pattern with a long canvas shoulder strap. Like you, I think of all the things I experienced with that bag. After college I continued to use it but started looking ratty: the strap frayed, a pen broke inside and bled through the canvas, and two of the three metal buckles broke.

So I quit using my messenger bag and it got shoved to the back of my closet. Then I cleaned out the closet and threw it away.

Yep, I regret it now - I'm not overly sentimental, but I do wish I had that bag back. So you hang onto yours, e! :)