They stopped me on the way out the door as I was trying to leave for work the other morning. The two youngest ones darted in front of me at the base of the stairs, forming a roadblock with their hands outstretched. They leaned into me as I tried to push past them. Their older sister yelled vaguely from the kitchen, directing them to stall me. She was almost ready.

“Ready for what?!” I yelled. I gave up trying to push past them, but Lydia and Gideon stayed with their hands pressed up against me as if they were two posts keeping me from falling over.

Clara appeared around the far corner carrying something in her hands. “Here!” she announced. Her legs kicked up in various directions as she giggled with excitement.

I took what she was carrying and stared at it for a few moments. “What is this? I can’t take this to work with me.”

“You have to! It’s a memory bag.”

“No… No, this is Gideon’s Paw Patrol backpack. I’m a professional. I can’t walk into my office carrying a backpack with a bunch of cartoon dogs on it.

Gideon frowned a bit at this, so I tousled his hair and sighed, “I mean, okay.” I checked my watch. “I’ll take it. Thank you.”

“Okay,” Lydia said, stepping aside as if she were a gate granting me access to the door. “Don’t open it until you get to work. There is something inside that can remind you of each of us.”

“Except me,” Gideon bowed. “My thing is just the bag.”

I took another deep breath and gave them each a hug, and then I stepped out the door with my Paw Patrol backpack held under one arm.

Later on at my desk, I discreetly opened the small package. And this is what I found inside: First, there were two baggies, one full of dried mango slices and the other with celery sticks and snap peas, under these was a small mason jar full of blackberries (sealed with plastic wrap). Then there was a purple and red marker drawing of a little girl in a long dress. She had a bow in her hair and the edges of the paper were folded up into a makeshift frame. Bouncing around in the corners of the backpack I found two lego figures, one in a skirt and blouse with long brown hair, the other with blue pants and what I believe to be Han Solo’s shirt and jacket. The second one had a beard and looked like he was very tired and needed a haircut.

Sure enough, they had managed to fit our entire family into the backpack after all. Gideon, the resourceful and practical (yet fun) rescue pup providing a container from his prized collection; Lydia, the free-thinking artist providing beauty and color to the drab office walls of my life; Clara, the nurturing and sharing servant, making sure I have snacks to eat while I’m busy at my desk. And then rattling around inside this bag is Andrea and I, two tiny figures struggling to hold hands in the chaos. Me, wearing Han Solo’s clothes but feeling very tired and in need of a haircut.

I laughed as I placed everything in its own little memorial shrine around my desk. They had included me in their memory bag. As if I needed to be reminded of myself. As if I could have forgotten who I was any easier than I could forget who they were. I shook my head. No. I know who I am. I’m the man that is held up by hands he doesn’t deserve.