The degree of difficulty was supremely elevated, yet with an uncanny gift of utilizing virtually every nook and cranny, my father would annually load up the family Chevrolet station wagon for the trip up north to Wisconsin for a week’s summer vacation. No member of the Pollitz family was ever described as “petite,” hence fitting all six of us, luggage and various other accoutrements into the available square footage required a masterful tactician.
Nearly 40 years ago, anticipating an incredibly romantic two-week honeymoon to Water Island, a remote isle just off the coast of St. Thomas’s Charlotte Amalie, my bride and I secured the largest pieces of luggage known to man at the time. To say we tried to “push the envelope” would be an understatement as the handle-only and roller-less travel bags were packed to the gills!
Every Christmas we hear of the Grinch’s heart that “grew three sizes that day.” I’m certain my arm span grew three inches that trip, lugging our luggage hither and yon.
Forewarned that luxury items for purchase on the island such as jewelry, cameras and liquor would be severely discounted, one should anticipate paying a premium for staple items such as milk and meat. So it was that early on the Sunday morning following our wedding, my brother-in-law showed meekly up at the door of our hotel room at the Cleveland Hopkins Airport with another enormous piece of luggage filled with countless food items, including multiple frozen meats wrapped in tinfoil.
Amazingly, all personal items made it safely to our delightful destination. We did have to wait a while for all our luggage, as the Piper Cub-size puddle-jumper plane wasn’t big enough to carry us and our luggage on the same leg of the journey from Puerto Rico to St. Thomas, so we had to hang out in the hangar for the arrival of the “main course” for the next two weeks.
Having now been married nearly four decades, I am no longer surprised by the travel habits of my lovely wife. Over the years we’ve taken countless trips together, and more than a few of them have been a simple overnight getaway. I barely need a Ziploc sandwich bag to handle my belongings. She, no matter the trip’s duration, will consistently require a sizeable Vera Bradley satchel large enough for the kitchen sink, a matching bag, thanks to a gift from yours truly, for countless smaller items such as six pairs of slippers, another tote for books, magazines and crocheting, and, of course, a bulging purse. I shudder to think what is down there in the deeper recesses. We have a full-size van to travel in, so I manage to find room for it all.
In another week, I and 21 others will be taking an excursion to a destination just more than 8,000 miles away. To get there, we will cross a big pond known as the Atlantic Ocean. Though it’s a 12-day trip, we’re all limited to a carry-on and a backpack. Inside will be a pair of well-worn flip flops, a fistful of baby-wipes as both toilet paper and even toilets are hard to come by, mosquito netting, a few clothing items that won’t be making the return trip with me, my bible, passport and a crisp hundred dollar bill to satisfy the VISA requirements of a particular foreign government.
Not officially part of my belongings, I will also have responsibility for two 50-pound army duffle bags filled with medical equipment, supplies and medications for residents of our destination, who will be coming through our daily medical clinic.
The trip isn’t all serious. I’m packing 200 balloons to blow up and hand out to kids treated at the clinic. Of course, I’ll be bringing some cash for emergencies and incidentals. I figured about half million should do the trick. Do the math, and that many Tanzanian shillings come to about $218 in my wallet. Thankfully, the largest item I bring I won’t have to pack because I’ll be wearing them: My size 17 hiking boots!
Ken Pollitz moved to Ottawa in 1991 as mission-developer/pastor of New Creation Lutheran Church. His biweekly column provides insights and viewpoints from Putnam County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org