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I've been down this road before

I soon will be boarding a bus to Quebec, and I'm not sure what will take longer. The journey or the packing process?

I'm not the one I'm worried about.

Through the years, I have learned to be a light packer, but I wasn't always that way.

I remember once traveling to Cape Cod with eight pairs of shoes. I packed linen, which doesn't travel well. I took hardcovers, not paperbacks.

That's not going to happen here, I can assure you.

Not in my bag, anyway. I'm not so sure about the 11-year-old with whom I'm traveling, along with other students and adults.

Oh, I think I read something about a luggage limit -- must double-check that in our travel material before departure day -- so I'm sure the editing process will prove interesting.

I have seen this daughter of mine's personalized packing lists, all drawn up by category and printed out on the computer. Clothing, games, accessories, gum, snacks, pass-the-time-on-the-bus items, sleeping mask.

Sleeping mask? I kid you not.

She printed out a copy for a traveling buddy of hers, too, and delivered it to her in a sealed envelope.

I think this may be one of those skip-a-generation things.

You see, years ago my mother was the mother of over-packers. The luggage manufacturers invented seven-piece luggage sets for people like her. Traveling with matching luggage -- and plenty of it -- was as much a requisite for road trips as was packing 10 pairs of black pants.

For days ahead of what might only be a three-day weekend away, my mother would hang up clothes -- "outfits," really -- from door frames and shower curtain rods. As an adult, the first time I visited a showroom in New York during Fashion Week, I felt as if I was back in my childhood home watching my mother lay out clothes to pack.

The ironing board would be set up in the bedroom, piles of tissue paper stacked neatly on the bed, little terry-cloth shoe covers waiting to be stuffed with pumps and flats and flats and pumps.

My father, who could pack a month's worth of clothing in a Ziploc if need be, did not take this especially well. My parents drove a station wagon, not a U-Haul.

Then, as the time drew near to load up the car, their bedroom would resemble a hotel lobby at check-in time, what with all the bags lined up and all.

Bellhop!

As if loading up the car was not enough of a challenge, my mother would request that certain bags be packed on top of other bags, others placed within easy reach.

My mother also packed plenty of germ-fighting supplies as well, including paper toilet-seat covers that came folded up in a little dispenser. These were for public restroom stops, naturally.

The only way to elevate my father's blood pressure even higher? Start asking "Are we there yet?" before we were out of the neighborhood.

But back to Quebec. I'm certain we will have a lovely time. There is so much scheduled in just a few short days that I'm sure we will collapse into our beds back at the hotel each night.

And if the street lights keep me awake, I get the sleeping mask!

e-mail: smartin@buffnews.com

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