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Son, well-labeled, is off to Spain for 4 months

August 16, 2011

Labeled, packed and ready to roll

At 10:08 p.m. yesterday, our household was in a panic. Our one surviving Rub-a-Dub laundry marker had suddenly gone missing and there was more labeling and packing ahead. But today all is calm. The marker reappeared. Young Man, well-labeled, is in the air on his way to Spain for a convention this week in Madrid, a semester of study in Seville, some side trips, lots of late-night café philosophizing and probably some adventures a mother doesn’t want to know about.

One time after my friends Lucy and Jim (not their real names) left for an overseas trip, the police investigated an open door at their house. The police report said the house had been broken into and ransacked, but the “crime scene” was really just a post-packing mess abandoned when time ran out. Let’s just say I’m glad no cops are doing walk throughs of my house this morning.

The little heaps of clothing, snack packages, school papers, books, toiletry items, etc. are testament

Mom-packed comfort bag... and Mom-labeled batteries

to the sad fact that luggage walls will only bulge so much. “You can buy it in Spain,” became the mantra as more things got tossed overboard. Tough decisions are required when packing for every temperature from 100 (120 sometimes in August) to 30 degrees Fahrenheit and for every persona from gentleman to student to backpacker and beach bum.

Yesterday, visions of enjoying Mom’s homemade meals over leisurely European conversation the last day faded as we raced through the day, consuming apples and McDonalds and frozen pizzas.

Yes, Hubby, we tried to get things done early, before Son started his Iowa corn detasseling job and again last week before he went to an out-of-state convention, but we knew Monday was going to be a bit busy doing last minute things.

Last Saturday, on a special date, Hubby and I perused REI and Penney’s. We bought a new weekender Kelty 500 backpack (much of our luggage is older than Son), an inexpensive alarm watch (to replace the frayed one with the annoying 2:30 p.m. stuck alarm), a stack of dress pants and 2 pairs of jeans (since all of his clothes suddenly look shabby by Spaniard standards). We bought things only Mom and Dad would think of, like vacuum packing bags that supposedly save 70% space.

One thing that slowed down our packing yesterday: Son’s advisor has been out of the country and was just answering emails and suggesting changes to the changes Son had made to his class schedule in Spain. So David had to agonize over changing his carefully chosen classes yet again and write emails to the program and fill out and scan forms throughout the day.
Monday’s schedule looked like this:

–          Priority: Get class schedule changes approved and forms sent in

–          ­Chiro to get ribs put back in place (from detasseling)

–          Bank for Euros ($150 = 100 Euros)

–          Book store for books that did not arrive by mail

–          Walgreens for school planner and last minute items like Awake caffeine tablets

–          Target for snacks to pack and another suitcase lock

–          2 clothing stores to try to find dress pants (since none of the Saturday-purchased ones fit. No luck.)

–          MV office to renew driver’s license (The state was shut down earlier.)

–          Great Clips, since there’s time (Mom’s past haircuts are worth driving home from college for; but the buzz cut she did needed, um, repair. First impressions are important and all.)

–          Etc.

Son kinda rolls his eyes at my specialty theme packing, but I think he kinda likes it. Comfort bag for plane = inflatable neck pillow (with last minute verbal instructions on that tricky valve), eye cover (with Mom sign that reads: Wake for meals), ear plugs and Mp3 player. Bible bag = Bible, tic-tacs poured into a baggie for quietness; childproof bottle of Awake caffeine tablets; notebook, clicker pens, tissues. Tiny photo album (the old fashioned kind you can hold in your hands) = pictures of family, friends and daily life.

Son has never had a camera case, so he thought the little yard sale case I bought for his camera and little journal was perfect. Maybe he’ll think the AARP logo on the side is for a cool store like REI. (Younger readers, AARP = American Association for Retired Persons or something like that.)

Son’s packing specialty was packing the computer gear—backup hard drive, this cord and that doodad. The dad’s contribution to packing was sitting on a suitcase on top of the vacuum packs of winter clothes to squish the air out. (There are times you just know not to bring the camera out.)

Yesterday I was at my motherly best: I groused about his last long American shower. I complained that four white t-shirts was too many. I labeled things obsessively (what wasn’t already obsessively labeled for college), even the rechargeable batteries. I sneaked a little specialty shoe shine kit into his luggage.

I confess that I love the hubbub of packing—the scribbled and marked up to-do lists (no, computer lists are just NOT the same), the just-perfect travel gear and most of all, the way things come together in unexpected ways at the end. We’d thought Son would carry on his new weekender backpack (since straps can get ripped off in baggage handling) and maybe his school backpack and check through my small suitcase on wheels. But Son thought it would be better to have the wheeled suitcase with him. A few seconds of Googling and I had the solution for “problem backpack straps in checked luggage.” We put the backpack inside a duffle I recently bought at the secondhand store, thinking it might enjoy a trip to Spain. And voila, the straps will be safe on the trip over and he’ll have an extra bag on the way back for all those cool Spanish clothes and shoes he’ll no doubt buy when he suddenly becomes fashion conscious.

We left for the airport on schedule this morning, even though that meant he’d have to shave en route with his dad’s cordless razor and eat breakfast at the airport McDonalds. Everything important is packed and he’ll get the cultural experience of having a Spanish tailor hem his two new too-long black dress pants. His watch is set on Spain military time, thanks to his dad. After using his cell phone as a walkie-talkie in the airport, he handed it over and will face life with no cell phone for a couple of weeks.

My last sentimental words to the departing son, yelled through the departee line, were: “You could take that heavy backpack off and set it on my suitcase with the (four swiveling) wheels.” Nodding and waving and not removing his backpack from his freshly chiroed back, Son’s last non-verbal message was: “Bye, Mom. It’ll be a lot harder for you to nag me when I’m 4243.76 miles or 6829.48 kilometers away. See ya in December. Love ya.”

You know those typical departure pictures, with the departees smiling their orthodontic smiles, hand resting casually upon their perfectly packed luggage? I’d love to see speeded-up videos of their last 24 hours and pictures of their post-packing messes.

P.S. Son just emailed from the Toronto airport that he loved my neck pillow. Email to Son: We forgot to put in bandaids to prevent new-shoe heel rubs! (Note: I did not write: Buy some bandaids or risk blisters!)

4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 17, 2011 2:30 am

    Loved reading this. That is all. 🙂

  2. August 17, 2011 7:33 pm

    Well, this was very educational. I had no idea that you snuck in a shoe shine kit. Or that my camera case was an AARP advertisement. 🙂 And I don’t think I’m at much danger of new-shoe heel rubs (the Ontario airport was miles long, my heels are rubless), but I do appreciate the concern. 😛 Sorry about the post-packing struck-by-a-tornado mess.Thanks for the ridiculous amount of help, and the obsessive amount of labels! 😉

  3. Jo Ann permalink
    August 21, 2011 11:59 pm

    waawaaawait a minute here….mom says Toronto airport, son says Ontario…….does any one really know where David is?!! Reminds me of my packing to go to Poland, and that was just for two weeks!

  4. Gwen permalink
    February 14, 2012 6:08 am

    (How to enjoy Life?)

    You all have the recipe, don’t lose the recipe.

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