Packophobia, noun: a mom’s fear of packing for travel with kids. Symptoms include extreme procrastination & urgent cleaning, but no packing.
It’s T-minus three days to go until we get on the plane and I have done nothing, nada, squat. At this very moment, for example, when I could be at the mall buying shoes for the girls, or organizing our clothes, or packing – I’m sitting on my arse in front of my computer blogging about procrastination. WTF? Normal moms would be on top of it at this point. There would be a sense of urgency, a get-outta-my-way-I’m-packing-for-Paris purpose about them. This sense of purpose would ricochet throughout their normal home and infect everyone – husband, kids, pets – compelling them to march around and make themselves useful. Not us. Our family is taking its cue from me, lethargo-Mom. Instead of packing, we are on the bed in a pile watching Pocohontas for the fortieth time.
I spent the whole whole morning de-junking the guest room closet, which was so full of stuff that if you saw it you would think I’m a hoarder. There was no logical reason to empty out that closet today, when I’ve ignored it for years. And now that all the stuff is out of the closet, the guest room and front door area qualify our house for an episode of Hoarders.
The urgency I felt about the closet is the urgency I should be feeling about packing. It might look like I’m being casual about packing, even blasé. But the truth is that I’m actually freaking out in reverse: instead of whipping myself into a frenzy of goal-oriented activity, I’m doing the opposite…flatlining. I’m a deer caught in the headlights, mesmerized by the glow of the oncoming 747. Paralyzed, unable to move even though I know I should at least go and wash someone’s underpants.
My husband has a new look in his eyes, a pleading one. They pleaded with me to travel lightly for this trip. He does NOT want me bring my usual house-sized Samsonite, and two condo-sized rollers for the girls, and my purse, which because I am an American, is huge. (They say that the size of a woman’s purse is a metaphor for the size of the emotional baggage she carries around with her. Heh.)
He has a point. It’s not easy marshalling two kids, their condo-sized rollers that they stop carrying as soon as we leave the house, their teddy bears, my purse, my tourist-sized camera equipment, my MacBook Pro, his MacBook Pro, a small bag for him that looks like it was packed by a Royal Marine who uses just one square of toilet paper to wipe his ass so he can conserve space, and my huge bag. This doesn’t work on so many levels. It takes superhuman strength to shlepp it all up escalators and onto the Tube or the Metro, and it can be tricky fitting it into the grandparent’s postage-stamp sized box room in Dublin.
I’m an experienced traveler, and although my husband disagrees, I think I’m a pretty good packer. My problem is I always bring too much stuff. I know this because I can never close the zipper on my suitcase. My husband has pointed out many times that even though I bring a boatload of clothing, I always end up wearing the same two or three outfits, and stuff I buy along the way. So why do I bring all the baggage? Well, I see it this way: Ella brings her baby blanket with her wherever we go, not because she needs it to stay warm, but because it’s a comfort to her. As a mother, it is a comfort me to know that if I should need anything, and I mean anything, I can probably find it in my suitcase. Et voila: Portable Hoarder Mom.
Also, when I was a kid my parents were unusually light packers so I rarely had anything I needed while traveling. You see the photo, below? That’s my sister and I with my father, who took us up to the top of Mt. Cook in New Zealand to see the view. As you can see, we’re wearing shorts and sandals, along with the lambswool coats he bought us at the foot of the mountain because they did not pack our coats. They were traveling light.
That’s where my portable hoarding problem comes from – the top of Mt. Cook.
If the size of my suitcase is a metaphor for all the emotional baggage I carry around, it’s clearly time to downsize. I need to de-junk my suitcase in the same way I attacked that closet this morning: without mercy. And when my husband sees this, it’s going to shock the living daylights out of him. I will take a picture of his face when he sees that my bag is even smaller than a Royal Marine’s, and looks like I only use half a square of toilet paper.
So here ye, here ye, this mama’s going to travel light – as light as maternally possible. It’ll be an experiment in letting go, and in trusting that if my child needs an iPad, a Bandaid, a thermometer, The Complete Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Anderson, and these items are not in my luggage, that we can make do. And by traveling light I’m talking one bag for all of us, two mouse-sized kid’s rollers, and two squares of toilet paper.
Now, if it were up to my husband, this is what we would bring:
• The girls, the clothes on their backs + two pairs of clean undies (good grief)
• Ella’s blankie
• Our current passports
• An ATM card
• Myself, and him
And you know what? He’s got a point – that’s all we really need.
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