Friday, December 16, 2011

Where is Mary Poppins When I Need Her?

The first Mary Poppins book was published in 1934, but I’m starting to think that she truly was the ultimate light traveler for these times. That bottomless carpetbag would fit in any overhead compartment, and someone who is practically perfect in every way would certainly never have to pay any overweight fee, even if her potted palm tree weighed a ton. If Mary Poppins found herself cooling her well-turned-out heels on a runaway for several hours, she could reach in and pull out a feather bed, or a turkey dinner, or a string quartet to help her pass the time.

I’ve had reason to especially envy Ms. P. of late, since I’m packing for a journey (this thing is too massive to be a mere trip), and I’m wondering how to carry along everything I might need. Sadly, I lack a carpetbag, and possess only a ragtag assortment of cheap and capacious roller bags that I snapped up at garage sales this past summer, anticipating this very day when I would begin to say, “I don’t have enough room in this bag!”

There are some complications to my situation. One is the length of the trip – 18 days. I barely have enough underwear, tshirts and yoga pants to last from one laundry day to another. I anticipate plenty of spot cleaning, plus the opportunity to learn how to say “Laundromat” in Mandarin.

Then, once I’ve gotten my own needs covered, there’s the U.S. ambassador angle to this hoedown. The child who is being visited has requested just a few small reminders of the life she’s left behind, say 25 pounds’ worth, plus other necessities such as contact solution, deep conditioner (“the BLUE pot, Mom, not the white pot”) and gossip magazines. I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know that I can carry five pounds of Kit Kat bars over the border.

There’s also my Mommy self to contend with, an alter personality forceful enough to put the entire United States of Tara to shame. The last time I packed to go to China, I was a blissfully ignorant newbie who had no idea of the many things that could go wrong when on the road with kids – i.e., people for whom I am completely responsible. I don’t think I even packed a travel size bottle of aspirin, just some really cute onesies and enough diapers to handle a number of potential bowel scenarios. This time, I’m hauling along melatonin and mucus reducers and several other mysterious creams, ointments and all-purpose potions. Bring on the venomous Chinese snow snakes, just let me grab the antidote out of my carry-on.

Finally, there’s the Christmas issue, a holiday that will be celebrated one week after our arrival. The three teens in the group will probably have some well-ingrained expectations of how this holiday needs to go down, at least based on their past experience in our spacious homeland. I’m scrambling to tuck in enough tiny bits of festive Yuletide fal-de-ral to help in recreating the holiday from 6,000 miles away, and I’m falling a little bit short at the moment.

If I could just get my hands on a working version of that carpetbag, I could pull out a lovely colonial house, candles blazing in every window, snow gently falling outside. Perhaps I could root around at the bottom and produce a well-trimmed tree, a cozy fire and a load of large, heavy and well-wrapped presents.

It might not be too late to find something on eBay. I’ll just type “magic carpetbag” into the browser bar and see what turns up. But in the meantime, I have to finish packing.

No comments:

Post a Comment