Saturday, April 17, 2010

Packing and unpacking

I’m one of those people who never unpacks from a trip. My suitcase lays open on the floor or on the old chest by the window, contents spilling out and hidden away. Sometimes it will take over a month before I disembowel it, surprised at what I end up bringing out into the light. “Oh that’s where you went!” I say to a favorite sweater I had forgotten about. There must be something deeply psychological about this, but I think it's just that I have so many other things I'd rather do, like knit for example, and so many things I have to do, like throw hay down in the pasture, that I don't take the time to unpack. And besides, then you have to do the laundry.

Packing is a different story. Packing is full of possibilities. Packing is thinking about what's to come, wondering will it be sunny or raining or will there be snow on the ground. It’s my job in Mark’s and my partnership to do the packing (for myself and the boys) before our family takes any trip. I am quite organized about it, thinking about it weeks ahead of time, starting piles in laundry baskets in the days before. I even have a file on the computer entitled “Packing lists” in which 27 different and specific packing list documents exist (Hospital packing list, Winter packing list, Disneyland packing list, etc.). I kid you not. 27. I counted. I fret endlessly about what to put in my suitcase. I line up outfits, considering the weather and my mood, whether I will be content with a wardrobe of just black t-shirts and blue jeans or will I need something with more color. I like to be prepared for any eventuality which means that, in the end, my suitcase has about three times the contents of Mark’s. I don’t pack for Mark. He usually accomplishes that task in the five minutes before we leave for the airport. The boys' and my whale sized duffle bags are piled by the front door and his small duffle containing a couple pairs of jeans, a couple polo shirts, socks, underwear, a toothbrush and deodorant, and the ever present bathing suit (“Because you never know when you’ll find a pool and you want to be prepared.”) join the group. And we’re off.

That’s all to say that I’m currently packing for a trip which I am taking at the end of this month. I will be going, all by myself, to London to visit one of my younger sisters. My dad had a second marriage many years ago to a woman not much older than I and from that I have two half-sisters, Erica and Jennifer. I was 18, in college, starting my own life when Erica was born. We spent a couple years having sporadic contact (which she doesn’t remember, of course!) and then about 18 years having no contact at all. There was a long period in which she did not speak to our dad, after he and her mom split up. That’s her story to tell, not mine, but suffice it to say when she did finally seek out her family she and I discovered that we have a strong and surprising chemistry. Our connection feels like old friends, though our ages are fairly spread out and our lives have taken different paths. We can talk about anything easily and are quite bonded though we live so far apart and I am perhaps the worst correspondent on the planet and I never remember to call on anyone's birthday. During the past nine years she’s lived in New York and London and that’s where she lives now with her husband, Mike, and their baby Gabriella.

When we returned from Philadelphia I felt the future unfurl ahead of me. So much possibility! I hadn't made any plans past March 1st, the day we were returning to California from Ben's surgery. I couldn't think that far ahead. But, once we got home I knew that it was time to follow through on my promise to Erica that this year I would come to visit. Gabi was born in January, the day after Toby’s birthday, in fact. She is someone I must meet, you know how I am about babies by now. And I am wanting to spend some time with my sister. The longest we’ve ever spent together in her 29 years is about three days. She did come out for Harry’s Bar Mitzvah, but I was a bit busy then, too, and we didn’t get a lot of hang out time. So, you can imagine, I’m really looking forward to this trip.

Ben is doing great; he made it through my absences with Chanel without any separation anxiety at all. Harry and Toby are all fine, too. I would love to bring the boys along, London being the treasure trove of culture that it is. (Not to mention the Harry Potter's London which would be so incredibly fun to explore.) I know it will be difficult to see all those amazing sights as a homeschool mom with no kids in tow, they’ll just feel like a long list of missed opportunities! But, we can’t afford four or five plane tickets to England, so I get to have a vacation all by myself. And that is really a treat. I’m not complaining.

However, a certain volcano which will remain unnamed (since I can’t seem to figure out how to spell or pronounce it anyways) is spewing ash and magma into the air over Iceland, causing all flights to be cancelled across Europe. I would like to lodge a complaint with the powers that be: This needs to stop right now. I have a baby and a sister and a brother-in-law to visit in 11 days and I insist that the air be cleared so that my plane can fly from San Francisco to London without concern. Thank you.

Time to go work on my London packing list. I’m bringing warm things and comfy things, and a knee length skirt for Shabbat. And Erica wants me to teach her how to knit, so besides all the knit presents I’ve been working on, I’ll be bringing yarn and needles to get her started. I believe I’ll leave my bathing suit at home, though, what do you think?

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