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Packing and unpacking summer memories

Summer, I learned long ago, is about constantly packing and unpacking. It’s not quite like fall and winter packing, which can be a chore in itself for family members. The school lunches. The daily upkeep of the backpacks. The weekday work totes, etc.

Summer packing is different than this – and messier.

Our daughter has a cousin who lives in a nearby town. These days the two of them are back and forth, back and forth, always sleeping in late at each other’s houses and sometimes going directly from one house to the other during the same week. Perhaps they go back and forth in search of better food – or better entertainment. Or maybe they just like packing bags. Who knows?

All I do know is that I often have two teenage girls living out of multiple duffels and totes at my house – including the one who actually lives here and has her own closet, dresser drawers and, don’t get me hysterically laughing here, clothes hangers.

Everywhere I look I see things in doubles. It must be like having twins. Two retainer cases. Two cellphones. Two phone chargers. Two water bottles. Two Pillow Pets.

I’ve never seen so many shoes scattered in so many places.

The other day I felt my daughter was ignoring my text messages. You know, the kind where you text a question and receive no reply. Then you text a series of question marks hoping those finally grab her attention.

“Sorry,” she later apologized. “I was packing.”

Packing is important these fun-packed summer days, but it seems as if unpacking isn’t much of a priority. Some bags never get unpacked at all. It’s as if the bag swallows up the clothes and the hairbrushes and the stretchy headbands and never sets them free.

On the other hand, when the bag finally does leave with the teen traveler for its proper home, certain items are left behind.

The other day I spotted my daughter in a daisy-print T-shirt I did not recognize. It belongs to her cousin, I was told. I think we need to set up a Lost and Found.

Perhaps things also are left behind because so many of them are so small. Bikini bottoms. Travel-size sunscreen. Striped no-show socks rolled up into balls that resemble cats’ toys.

A recent sports camp required even more packing and unpacking on a daily basis – equipment, clothing, water bottle, lunch, snack money, more sunscreen – so the sleepover bags now have plenty of company. Our foyer sometimes resembles baggage claim.

Then there’s the transporting of instruments and music folders necessary for summer orchestra rehearsals and lessons. The trips to the tennis courts or nearby park. The outings to sporting events, swimming pools and amusement parks. All these activities require even more packing for those on the go.

It’s not just teens. I see people of all ages packing up. Filling coolers in the convenient store parking lot. Strapping things to the roofs of their cars. Packing up for camping trips (hope they read the story above). Packing up groceries for a weekend at the cottage. Packing up the items that didn’t sell at the garage sale. Packing up books at the library for those summer reading requirements.

My mother recently informed me she had packed up a box of papers to be shredded. The shredder is at my house. Would I mind?

Of course not. I’ll just throw the box into the back of my vehicle next to the box of clothing I packed up weeks ago to drop off at a donation center.

In many cases, it’s not as if you can get lazy and leave things in the car until later. Not in the summer heat. So I feel as if I’m always packing and unpacking many kinds of bags. Supermarket totes filled with perishables. Fresh produce from the farmers’ market. Cosmetic bags with lipstick. Bakery bags with half-eaten chocolate chip cookies. Plastic bags stuffed with wet swimsuits and soggy towels. Gum!

Even packing your summer handbag is different than packing your winter bag. Most women need to pack different things in their summer carry-alls.

This time of year calls for a travel umbrella, sunscreen, sunglasses, hand wipes, perhaps a packable hat or lightweight cardigan for when the evening turns cool.

Separate compartments are necessary because you can’t allow the wet water bottle to touch the cellphone, shopping list or stamped letters to be mailed at the post office.

Plus, you might want a separate section to stash reading material to enjoy outdoors at lunchtime or a garden tour map come the weekend.

I’m constantly dumping the contents of my summer work tote onto the bed, sorting through the mess and repacking.

As any parent knows, however, this is nothing compared to the big bags of stuff that came home from the school locker in June.

Or from the dorm room at the end of spring semester.

Have these things been unpacked? Partially unpacked? Will they ever be unpacked?

They better be. Before you know it, it’ll be time for them to start packing up all over again.


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