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Packing is Such Sweet Sorrow

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.

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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  

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Judi Cuervo is a New York City native who fell in love with cruising in 1976 during her first sailing aboard Carnival Cruises’ Mardi Gras. Twenty years later, she began her freelance cruise writing gig and, since that time, has covered mass market, ultra-premium, riverboat and expedition ships for regional, national and international publications as well as cruise websites.