An economy-size box of Pampers Pull-ups has lived on our dining table for the last month, along with a few boxes of crayons, some packages of Annie’s cheddar bunnies and a wayward selfie stick I really don’t know how to use. These items, abandoned on the dining table during our fits and starts of trip-related productivity, represent the sum total of our packing so far. They are what’s keeping me up at night.
The kids are beside themselves with excitement about the trip. Harper, age 4 ½, gleefully crosses off another day on our countdown calendar every morning. Walker, age 2 ½, asks whether we’re going “up, up, up” nearly every time we leave the house. But what they don’t know is this: It’s going to take a miracle to get us to the airport on time on Saturday. The list of tasks we have to do between now and then seems insurmountable.
My thoughts at the moment resemble one of those cable news shows with the ticker scrolling along the bottom trumpeting information irrelevant to the topic of the show itself. In the background of any activity—meeting with colleagues one last time, attending an orientation for Harper’s pre-school, having lunch with a friend I’ll miss while we’re away—the ticker scrolls on. Is Walker’s slight fever going to turn into a full-blown virus? Does Harper need a new coat? Will the kids’ rain boots fit in the two suitcases we’ve allowed ourselves? Do I need to pack them enough toothpaste to last the trip, or will they find the crazy Asian flavors—lotus, charcoal, bubble fruit—fun? What on earth is bubble fruit, anyway?
We tried to head off some of this expected anxiety by starting our trip planning very early—or, at least, early for us. Weeks ago, we made “what to pack” lists. We bought the kids clothing in sizes that will allow them some room to grow. We got typhoid shots and filled prescriptions for antibiotics. We researched and then purchased a double stroller that will fit down narrow city streets. And yet, still, the news ticker: Are the Airbnb-ing bachelorettes renting our house going to destroy the place? What should I download on my Kindle? Will my cell number still work while we’re abroad? Do we need bug spray? Now Walker’s coughing; is there some kind of magical drug that can get him healthy before we leave?
We’ve been in this place before. We’re always packing until the very last minute, no matter how much preparation we’ve done. Somehow, it always works out. We haven’t missed a flight yet—although we’ve come way too close to that for Derek’s liking. But here’s the thing about travel: Arriving at our destination is sure to erase all memories of the pain we had to go through to get there. That’s why I know that, this Sunday, when I open the doors of our oceanfront apartment’s balcony in San Sebastian, Spain, the sea breeze will carry away the news ticker in my brain. I won’t be sad to see it go.