“Just buy a pack of white t-shirts from Wal-Mart and that’s all you need.” This was my dad’s advice to me after I called him crying that while I had landed as scheduled in Miami, my luggage remained on a runway in Philadelphia. I had less than an hour to shop before the family reunion cruise ship departed, where I would then be at sea for four days before my luggage would meet me in Jamaica. “Dad, do you know how long it took me to pack that suitcase full of my favorite clothes?!” My phone call to my dad was distressed, anxious, and selfish, but he met my concern with a blasé response. It was not until I was a parent myself that I would appreciate why he approached this situation so differently.
Merely three years later, my husband and 3-month-old son would come to my residency graduation, dressed for the occasion. Minutes before I would walk across the stage, I scanned the audience for their faces but could not find them. When I later inquired about where they went, my husband informed me that right before they called my name, my son had a diaper explosion that not only ruined his outfit but also my husband’s pants. So they spent the remainder of my ceremony scrubbing themselves in the bathroom. We made the best of the graduation celebration with wet clothes and laughed about it later. Having my family there, whether covered in baby poop or not, was what meant the most.
After my luggage disappeared with my meticulously packed sundresses, I found myself running through a Target throwing toiletries and wardrobe staples into my shopping cart like I was on a TV game show. There was no time to try things on and there would be no stores other than the cruise ship gift shop to supplement anything I forgot. The cruise ship staff took pity on us and gave us a toiletry bag and free reign to shop the ship’s lost-and-found closet, which contained sequined dresses I imagined belonged to eighty-year-old grandmothers. Since I wanted to attend the formal dinner with the rest of our family without looking like I carried an AARP card, I fashioned a beach cover up and scarf into an evening gown as if I were a contestant on Project Runway.
Looking back at the photos from my trip, I laugh at how haphazard my clothes appeared– some baggy, swallowed me up, and others better suited for someone three decades older. This unexpected twist to my vacation may have caused some stress, but in the end led to funny stories and memories to an otherwise uneventful trip. As a mother, I have learned to appreciate flexibility and adaptability, as you never know what surprises lay ahead. My children have also taught me that there are more important things to worry about than our material possessions. What was most important about our vacation was that we were all safe and healthy, and this greatly outweighed the inconvenience of some lost luggage. So someday when my children call me upset that the airline has disrupted their travel plans, or a similar challenge that life throws their way, I imagine I will give them the insouciant shrug of an experienced parent who sees the big picture.