Monday, June 9, 2008

Moldy Suitcase

Two weeks ago I was packing for my family's California trip. I made lists of what to pack in suitcases, what to pack in the diaper bag, what to pack in the ' kids on the airplane survival bag', and what information needed to be printed and carried in my purse. I always feel better packing the night before, despite how many lists and piles I make in the preceding week. I'm not sure why. I just don't like putting everything into a suitcase and zipping it up until it is time to head to the airport.

I also have to unpack before I pack. You see, I have something of a problem. I never unpack from a trip.

I went to London in March, and my suitcase was still sitting by my bed when it was time to pack for Disneyland. Yes, it still had things in it.

Don't be alarmed; I do retrieve my toothbrush and razor, and I wash my dirty clothes. But the extra stuff just kind of....sits there.

I am perfectly content to leave said vacation receptacle as is until out of sheer need or luck I have plucked every remaining sandal and travel toiletry from the suitcase debris. In fact, I prefer this mode of 'unpacking'. The other way, the regular way, seems very sad.

I was thinking about this habit while packing a stack of Dora panties (for Moira, not me). To make way for the miniature underpants, I had to reach into a deep side pocket and withdraw a handful of receipts. I put them there to keep track of how much I spent while in Europe. Oops. Now as I looked through the locations and items purchased, I was filled with happy memories of mushy peas and cider. I didn't really like the mushy peas, but I did like them on my plate. I'm sure you understand.

I didn't want the lovely memories to be discarded, useless though they were, so I put them in my sock drawer. I almost never wear socks unless I'm going running...and...well....please see my double-chin pictures to become better informed on how often I go running.

I found my wallet and some really cool postcards of St. Paul's when I packed my magic hair potion. Austin was excited about the wallet, I was excited about the postcards. A good day was had by all, really.

The only reason I felt at peace with removing these items was that I was filling the suitcase up with more items, items that would assist my family in having the Greatest Family Vacation Ever.

I simply cannot empty a suitcase for the sole purpose of putting the suitcase back in the closet. It is just too painful, too horrible to think about.

And this, I realize, might be weird.

I've been trying to figure out why. Here's what I've come up with so far.

The first time the Suitcase Problem showed up was at the age of 13. Having recently moved across the country, I was delighted to return 'home' for a blessed two weeks. It was a great trip, I'm sure. I don't really remember. But soon the time had come to return to the 'other home'. As the plane descended into the Valley of the Sun, my sister and I wept silent tears. It was a rough time to move from everything we had known. Also, Phoenix is really really really hot. Anyways, I left my suitcase open in my room. I didn't want the brief respite to be over. I wanted to believe that in some small way, even if just inside my plastic green suitcase (yes it was) I was still somewhere I wanted to be.

One year I visited Nashville for almost a month. I was sixteen, and had perhaps one of the best summers of my existence. I drove in Cat's convertible, got rained on when the convertible top wouldn't budge, and went to the beach with friends. Even though I didn't need the escape as much as in the beginning, it was still deliciously peaceful to visit. When I returned to Phoenix this time, I dove back in to visiting my sister's new cracker box apartment and loathing the day that school would start. I also left my suitcase sitting by my bed again. Sometimes at night I would crawl over and lift the top flap, believing that I could indeed smell the ocean and the summer grass. One day I did smell something. I left my wet bathing suit rolled up in a plastic bag, and after all that was pretty bad. I just threw it away.

As I divulge this riveting information, I realize that I also treat boxes in a similar fashion. I have moved about twenty-five times. Being categorically unorganized and yet having a fascination with organization, I have somewhat of an impasse when it comes to unpacking boxes. On one hand, says my brain, we're just going to move again. It is bound to happen, so why unpack your yearbooks? It isn't as if you ever find a place for all those picture frames, so just leave them in the box! On the other hand....I could make my house look like Pottery Barn, all those lovely baskets and crates with chalk signs that say 'Puzzles' 'Stuffed Animals' and 'Art Supplies'. This could be the time when I really make it work! I could have stability and organization and nothing would be in a box!

Usually I unpack whatever the box is holding and place it in random areas of the house. My baskets would need to say 'Random Crap' or 'Junk From The Target Dollar Aisle'. That would be if I could even afford the fancy pants baskets, which I cannot. Not yet, anyways. I'm still holding out hope for that Pottery Barn existence.

I don't need those baskets, of course. I could just form my own little organization structure and stick with it. In a way though, it seems as if I already have. The stuff in the box belongs in the box. The heart candles from my mother-in-law and the license plate from my parent's car when I was born, the copy of Much Ado I have read so many times it is now in pieces, the picture of the basketball team that Austin coached...they are all grouped together in some weird mix that just kind of works. I'm not going to read this same copy of Shakespeare's work, as it will probably turn to dust. But I just can't throw it away! It reminds me of first falling in love with the play, of reading by the poolside while soaking up cancerous sun. I'm not going to put the picture on the wall, and the kids in the photograph are now graduating high school. But get rid of it? Never!

But where do I put it all?

Maybe the box and suitcase issues aren't totally one and the same. But they at least feel related.

I think that I like to keep a capsule of memory, a bit of some other time and some other pub to visit when I need a quick break. The magic seems somewhat farther away when the vacation spell is broken by unpacking.

If I just keep the socks that walked the London streets next to the brochures I procured next to the small pot of jam I borrowed from the hotel next to the lipstick that now reminds me of looking at palaces...

And now I am back from my vacation. June 9th, and my year's vacations are now over. DEPRESSSSSSING.

Both suitcases are sitting at the foot of my bed, brimming with (clean) clothes, Mickey Mouse ears, camera, pictures that the girls colored while waiting at LAX. And I don't want to unpack. I want to think that I have a bit of fun holiday time left...just sitting at the foot of my bed. I want to have a very visual reminder of the relaxing, hectic, sunburned freezing beach, overindulged cheeseburger hankering time we had.

Perhaps that is why I'm wearing my 4 dollar over sized plastic blue bauble at work today.I bought it at Disneyland and wore it proudly the whole time. It looks awfully out of place at work, and it might make me appear to be ridiculous. But it smells like the beach. And cheeseburgers. And when it starts to mold I'll throw it out.

Until then, ahoy matey! This wench is wearing a cocktail ring.

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