Packing is Such Sweet Sorrow

Sigh. Wherever we cruise, we’ve got to go home sometime.

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The Monthly Mantra

Packin’ it in … Packin’ it in … Packin’ it in …

It’s late afternoon the day before disembarkation and I’m on my balcony gazing out at the ocean, serenaded by the gentle swish of the waves. But ever so subtly, I find myself bracing for the transition from carefree holidaymaker to stressed-out working woman … and packing to go home is the first inevitable step.

Eleven days … one medium suitcase and a carry on. How neatly my bags were packed when I departed. What a train wreck they’ll be for the return leg. Why, oh why, did I bring a 500-page hardcover?

I blame a lot of it on those weather forecasting websites. All that stuff about heat waves across Europe and a serious lack of rain? Malarkey. The moment I touched down at London’s Gatwick Airport, I was cold and drenched. So cold and drenched, in fact, that I’m now the proud owner of a new jacket, two bulky sweatshirts and a folding umbrella that I never would have had to purchase had the forecast been accurate.

RELATED: Cruising to a New Europe – by Sail

I visited western France on this trip, an area known for its delectable caramels. I wasn’t thinking of luggage space when I picked up six bags of them–they just looked so pretty in the shop with their purple satin ribbons and gilt-edged labels. Maybe I could dump some hair products and sunscreen and squeeze the candy into the toiletries sack. Or maybe I should just skip dinner and have a few bags of caramel beurre salé instead of the Chilean sea bass that’s on the dining room menu.

I promised a friend she could look forward to a birthday gift upon my return and I’m kicking myself for not buying any of the lovely little French things I admired in the lovely little French shops I visited. Today, San Sebastian, was my final opportunity but I soon discovered my choice was pretty much limited to a big Basque sausage or an Iberian ham the size of a toddler. Since neither would fit the bill … or my suitcase … I’m hoping the airport shops will have a very wide selection of really, really small gifts.

My cabin steward has retrieved my empty suitcase and it’s on the bed signaling that the time has come. I go straight for the side zipper to expand the case’s capacity and somehow merge the new jacket, sweatshirts, umbrella and my other purchases with the original contents. The unworn items — three pairs of shoes, two dresses and three pairs of shorts — mock me.

I press, I push, I squeeze until the zipper makes its full journey — sort of like a really fat person zipping up a pair of jeans. It’s all in! The zipper is holding! I set the bag upright and breathe a sigh of relief, delight and accomplishment.

Until I see the pair of sneakers in the corner of the room and notice the big round hairbrush on the vanity.

— Judi Cuervo  

Photo: Ingram Image, Inc.

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