The suitcases have come out of the closet, and Scout-the-Labish knows something’s up.
This time last year our planned vacation travel was still several months off. But hurricanes have derailed us twice now. First time was only a glancing blow, but there was torrential rain, the kind that falls sideways in sheets. At one point somewhere around Myrtle Beach I worried about the twenty-something following us from Charleston to Wilmington in a sketchy car he’s mercifully replaced with a reliable ride—an afternoon gully washer made it impossible to know whether he was still right behind us, and how far, but we finally made it safely, all of us. And then last year we had to scramble to make reservations in a completely different destination inland to avoid Irma. In the end we suffered only rain and a little wind, while my ex-sister-in-law-but-still-my-sister had to contend with worse in our absence. ‘Til next year, we said.
So this year we decided to brave the oppressive heat and humidity of a Lowcountry July so we’d have a fighting chance to see her before hurricane season hits in earnest (and for Scout-the-Labish at last to frolic with one black Lab girl called Waco, as he was promised last summer). I plan to remind myself of winter in Vermont every second I’m tempted to whine. But I grew up in Memphis, after all, which can be its own kind of miserable in the summer. However hot it gets in Charleston, the Atlantic at least has the decency to blow around the salty air. Getting out of town for a few days is a delicious opportunity, anyway.
Meanwhile, we’re doing what needs to be done, making lists, planning a week of meals here at home so the fridge is fairly empty when we cast off, gathering files of Important Papers, paying all the bills now so we can indulge in time off unsullied by financial obligations, surfing the web for fabulous dog-friendly venues, thinking about what we’ll need in the car for creatures of human and canine persuasion, and plowing through massive piles of laundry ahead of packing.
I’ve written travel content for the web in my professional life, including how-to-pack and what-to-pack posts. All the conventional wisdom says choose ‘lightweight, quick-drying, performance clothing,’ even for your unders. You can wash your skivvies in the hotel sink in a pinch, goes the thinking, and they’ll be dry and ready to roll in an hour.
When push comes to shove, though, I never do any of that, and anyway you can always find a place to do laundry. I don’t have a special travel wardrobe: I still end up ironing my favorite white blouses and neatly folding them, knowing they’ll be all wrinkly when I unpack them. I don’t care. I love me a white cotton blouse in the summer.
The main thing, says the Chef, is casting off on time, which is always an unholy hour just after midnight. Because Vermont is convenient to no destination in the American South, and however you slice it, we are not exactly spring chickens, and we have a solid couple of days of driving. You have to keep an eye on the Chef, though: he will grab bags and schlepp ‘em into the car before they’re zipped up. And he will bust my chops if we pull out of the driveway late.
Wonder whether Paleolithic hunters got grumpy when their Paleolithic gatherer-partners were not ready to leave on time—you know: the ‘aboriginal’ populations who trekked across the Bering Land Bridge tens of thousands of years ago, making their way through North America, thence to Meso- and South America, ostensibly to survive—not exactly vacation travel. Imagine packing for that trip.
How about Jews fleeing the Nazis—what did they pack? What about the mother from Honduras who is readying an infant child to cross a dangerous river in the dark in her quest to escape a life of peril? Or the Syrian family taking one last, brave shot at life? How does one even begin to pack for that kind of travel? I’m guessing they are not thinking about lightweight, quick-drying performance fabrics, but instead of their own skin. Right at this moment as we prepare for travel I can’t help thinking about all the world’s refugees, families torn asunder, and how each of us, at least each American, comes from a refugee family, even if we must go all the way back to those Paleo-Indian tribes to find them.
The twenty-something can’t join us this year because he has a Fabulous New Job. I’m a proud mom. He’s had his share of hurdles to clear and lately has sailed over new ones like they’re nothing. We’ll catch up over the holidays, maybe. Meanwhile, it’s fun to watch him meet new challenges with maturity and aplomb. This mom visit can wait. As for the other mom visits, I’ll be thinking of them when we cast off into the darkness with unzipped bags and a shy doggy.