The Mom has been away for a fortnight, relaxing and soaking up the sun in Mexico. Prior to her departure, I was the recipient of many a flustered, harried email. The majority of which detailed her struggle to prepare for her holiday.
These sorts of emails are always confusing. Mostly because The Mom and I roll in different ways in this arena. When I prepare for a trip, mostly what happens is this:
Me sat on the sofa, reading the internet. A thought comes into my head: You are going away in a few days. There are probably things to do. Ooh, look, Twitter.
A day or two will pass. And then: Hmmm, it’s going to take a couple of days to get this laundry sorted. It would be bad to arrive at my destination with only dirty laundry. (Unless I’m going home to The Mom’s in which case, it’s all dirty laundry because her tumble dryer doesn’t take three hours and result only in the laundry being hot and crinkled). At this point, I might look at the laundry machine. Before returning to the internet. That evening, I might throw a load of washing in.
The day before I’m due to leave, I’ll realise that actually, I’m going to have to do something about this. I will then spring into action, briefly consider my destination, throw some of my favourite (and sometimes a bit damp) things into the nearest bag, make a pile of chargers, documents (passport, visa, etc) and go back to reading the internet or writing.
The day I’m due to leave, I’ll throw a few more things in the bag, grab my laptop, turn everything off in my flat and head to the airport. And that’s it.
This time around, The Mom had started her preparations when I was still at home for the holidays. I watched in awe as she rattled off all the things she had to do on her list: prescriptions, notes and addendums to notes for the care of the birds, throwing things out of the fridge, selecting and carefully folding her clothes (which required some detailed consideration of what might take place on her holiday), and on and on.
And it dawned on me why it takes The Mom so long to prepare: it is because she is in a constant state of preparation. I live in a constant state of semi-prepared. I, too, have prescriptions. It’s just that I don’t always take my meds (don’t worry, they’re just anti-inflammatories, if push comes to shove, I could always present myself at a drug store or chemist in wherever I’ve gone and get something that would tide me over). I always keep a stash to hand in my flat, and in my bags. In all my bags. In all coat pockets, there is usually a pill or two to be found, in case my arthritis flares up. I’ve been taking these meds for over 20 years, on and off, so it’s no big deal. I don’t have to take them everyday if I’m mobile. I don’t have anything in my flat that requires daily tending to (the one plant I have survived the three weeks I was in Canada over Christmas), and I only have one set of keys so I couldn’t ask anyone to come over even if I wanted to.
And as for the fridge… well, in the lead up to any travel, I am austere in the extreme: I will have planned my grocery shopping in such a way that a day or two before I’m due to leave, all I’ll have to eat is some stale crackers, and a box of soup. Maybe some rice. I will have made sure there’s a box of soya milk for when I get back.
I tried telling The Mom about some of my tricks and she scoffed. I pointed out, when she went grocery shopping, that perhaps she didn’t need an entire head of lettuce, and a kilo of carrots. But then, she lives in North America and the smallest size of anything at the supermarket is family size.
Mostly, though, the issues I was confronted with around her packing were with her bloody iPad. The iPad I had specifically sorted out when I was home, knowing that it would be impossible to do so over Skype from the UK.
But no, that was apparently insufficient. There was a last minute panicked phone call the day before she left, screaming down the line about how technology was out to get her. I must admit, I didn’t even try.
“Go across the street,” I said. “Get the neighbours to sort it out for you.”
And so she did. And apparently everything was fine. She’s going away again in the spring and I have to say, I wouldn’t be surprised if she starts packing the minute she’s home from this trip. I’m away to Barcelona at the beginning of March. The most important thing I have to do about this is remember to buy a flight. After that, it’s clear sailing.