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Signs Of Life

Columns by Pamela Majteles

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Traveling Circus

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Posted by pam on January 14, 2011 at 10:38 pm

Originally published August 21, 2009

Reprinted with permission from Bay Area News Group – East Bay

With school about to start, I can rest easy. No more family vacations are looming ahead. Just the thought of getting ready for another one would be enough to send me packing.

And off I’d go, as fast and faraway as possible, packing everything I need in one small suitcase. Light and easy to carry. It would be nothing like going on vacation with my family, when I’m always reminded of a clown car I once saw at the circus. In the middle of the Big Top, the car stopped and out streamed clowns and bicycles and balls and hula hoops and small animals. My family travels much the same way.

When we’re preparing to go, I do my best impression of a ringmaster, cracking the whip. “Only one suitcase each – pack a minimum of clothes and other things you need,” I instruct my three kids. They nod on cue, a well-trained act, making me believe they’ve heard every word.

But it’s always the same, after the car is packed, I can’t believe my eyes. Piled one on top of another, like a shaky pyramid of acrobats, are dozens of suitcases, bags and other stuff. One false move, it all comes tumbling down.

This year, I declared things were going to be different. No more clowning around. I would closely supervise the packing, limiting what we take on vacation. When I observed my youngest daughter cramming clothes into an already bulging suitcase, I explained to her a packing rule I learned long ago. “You pack everything and then take out half.”

Never willing to accept the first offer, she bargained, “I’ll take out 20 percent.” So I tried again, “40 percent.” She fired back, “30 percent!” Done.

Next, I found my teenage daughter surrounded by a suitcase, beach tote, back pack and recycled bag proclaiming “Don’t Be Trashy”. She resembled a drug store cashier trying to stuff all the hair care products from aisle 13 into her bags. “You only need one shampoo and conditioner,” I advised.

From the expression on her face, I might as well have recommended she let her hair air dry and give up her blow dryer forever. With a lot of effort, she and I worked through the knots, and she agreed to sacrifice some things. She would settle for “shiny” and “silky” hair while forfeiting “frizz control” and “all-day manageability”.

Then, along came my four-year-old son, an expert at nesting. I witnessed him dragging his two blankets and three sleeping buddies (dog, dog and dolphin), all of which he intended to bring. Knowing finesse was required, I asked him, “Have you heard the story about the dog and dolphin?” When he shook his head, I came up with it, the one about the dog and dolphin who, more than anything in the world, loved to sit in their special spot – the little boy’s pillow at home. While my son put two of his three buddies back, I deftly hid away one of his blankets, knowing he wouldn’t miss it.

Taking off on vacation this year, we were a little lighter than usual. But with more work, in the future, I know my family can do even better. I just need to push a little harder, get everyone to jump through a few more hoops, the way they do at the circus.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.

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