Packing up my suitcases

Ronda Rich's picture

Too often I used to stop by Mama’s and find her with that look in her eye. I’d know it the moment I walked in, so I silently curse myself for picking that time to drop by.

It was a no-nonsense look which warned me before she ever spoke not to cross her or depute her.

She’d sigh wearily. “I’ve been cleanin’ out this morning – I’m so worn out I can barely move – and there’s a bunch of your stuff sittin’ in the living room. I want you to take it and get it outta my way. You got more room than I’ve got.”

It was usually junk. Not really worth keeping but too sentimental to discard. It was the kind of stuff that I preferred to keep at Mama’s. But that not being an option, I loaded it up and dragged it home to my attic. One day, she’d been cleaning out the closet in the sewing room.

“Get that luggage and take it home or I’m gonna give it to the Salvation Army,” she ordered.

That luggage – that luggage – is not going to the Salvation Army for it means too much to me. So I hauled that hot pink Samsonite set home with me and smiled as I packed it in the attic with four other sets of luggage including a polka dot set, two pieces of genuine Louis Vuitton, a French-made tapestry set (my first with wheels – God’s greatest give to a traveler) and the black and white mingled cloth of Samsonite. My favorite suitcase – a compact leopard print wheeler – is in the hall closet because it is used almost weekly.

Earlier, as I picked up the hot pink luggage – and it is still a gorgeous color – I thought of something else.

“Do you know where that brown leather set of Samsonite is? The set we had when I was a little girl?” I asked Mama, the former Patron Saint of Storage.

“It’s here somewhere and when I find it, you can take it, too.”

“Good,” I replied and I smiled when I thought of that one piece that was a childhood companion.

Driving home, I glanced over at the hot pink leather tote bag and I realized, for the first time, its significance. I was born to wander. I came into this world to roam, sometimes aimlessly, sometimes with great purpose. A sophisticated gypsy, a friend once said of me, pointing out that I am intrigued by the byways and back roads of this life and the things they teach me. The stories they whisper to me.

As early as 5 or 6, I would drag the family suitcase – that brown leather Samsonite – from the closet, fill it with my little clothes, then play for hours my pretend game of going to New York City on business about books. Honestly. How did a pre-schooler in the rural landscape of the South know that NYC is the heart of the publishing industry? Destiny. It’s that simple.

All children know at an early age where they are meant to go. It is as instinctive as breathing. Some follow that path. Too many, though, hindered by misjudgments, misguidance, mishaps or mistakes fail to take the calling of their childhood into adulthood. Then destiny is missed.

In junior high, I discovered that stunning hot pink luggage and yearned for it. Not that I had anywhere to go for I only remember one family vacation. The summer I was 11, my parents and I took a two-week sojourn to visit family who had moved to West Virginia. It was beyond exciting. For two years, though, on birthdays and Christmas, I got a piece of that luggage until I had the full set. It is practically unused yet it was most useful.

I packed my dreams in there and set out to travel the path of my calling.

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