Packing Our Personalities

I took three of the kids to California for Spring Break to visit relatives. Since these three are 12, 13 and 18 years old, I left the packing to them, giving them some guidelines as to dressing appropriately for the activities and weather (turns out “sunny California” is a big, fat lie).

What started out as my effort to give them some autonomy and remove extra duties from my plate became interesting insight into my children – specifically, it turns out that packing a suitcase is directly correlated to one’s personality.

Grace, 13, is a detail-oriented person who is very organized and over-prepares. True to her personality, she made a list, figured out which items could mix and match since she couldn’t pack too much. She planned for every possible situation and, sure enough, had everything she needed – all of it neatly folded.

James, 18, packed only what was absolutely necessary, stuffing things into his bag, unfolded, wadded up. Knowing he had one fancy dinner to go to, the only thing he folded and treated with care was a dress shirt and pants and a tie. Typical of him – a mix of thoroughly and haphazardly done.

Grant, 12, well, he’s a do-everything-by-the-skin-of-his-teeth kind of guy. He does only the bare minimum, doesn’t see the merit in changing clothes very frequently, including, I’m ashamed to say, underwear. So when I asked them all to bring me their suitcases so I could attach the luggage tags, I found Grant’s to be alarmingly light.

I looked inside and (keeping in mind this was for a 7 day trip) and found:

3 White t-shirts
1 plaid, flannel button down shirt (his plan for dressing up was to wear the flannel shirt buttoned up, worn with shorts)
1 pair of shorts
1 pair of socks
NO underwear

I’d been under a lot of stress already, what with the usual making sure everything would be covered at work and at home in our absence. Here we were, the night before our early morning flight, finally packing. So when I opened Grant’s feather-light bag, I burst out into laughter like I’ve never experienced before. It came from my toes and out poured every moment of stress, worry and resignation over it all that had been building up in me for maybe years.

It felt wonderful and surprised me with its heartiness. My children and husband came running, having never heard such sounds out of me (I laugh a lot but not like this).  All I could do was point to the bed and the lack of clothing in his bag. Everyone got it, except Grant who just said “What?, What?”.   All I could do was pull him to me and hug him for all the naive absurdity of my youngest child who had packed his very personality into that bag.

I made him add a few items including underwear (which, truthfully, I’m not sure he ever changed). At least they were there, in his suitcase, should the need or desire arise.  We had a good time on our trip but my fondest memory will always be Grant’s packing job.

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