Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Baggage That Comes With Being A Dad ...

In the mountainous regions of Eastern Nepal, high among the Himalayas, live a people called the Sherpa. They are known worldwide for, among other things, their ability to carry ridiculously large quantities of bags, as their Western traveling companions tag along on their trek, unencumbered.     

I think of the Sherpas, and my connection to them, every time I go on a trip with my family.

This past weekend, my wife and I took our kids on an overnight trip to my family’s house on Lake Ontario. It was just one night. Did that stop us from stuffing the mini-van so tight that I couldn’t see out the back windows? No. It didn’t. 

"Honey, don't forget the beach toys." Grumble. Grumble.
We took more for this so-called night away than we packed for the full week we spent in South Carolina in early July. Heck, we packed more than I took with me when I moved away to college some two decades ago. In fact, if you added up all the stuff I had packed on various overnights and weekend trips during my pre-married, pre-child days, it would still be less than what we took for one evening at the old camp. 

Gone are the days when I could just grab a change of clothes and a towel (a nod to the Hitchhiker’s Guide) and spend a week on the road. Don’t worry, I’d usually buy a tooth brush once I got where I was going. Usually. That was then.

Fast forward to this past weekend and we packed enough clothes for each kid to change outfits more than Cher at a concert. Plus sweatshirts, jeans and pajamas. We packed not only bath towels for each family member, but we also brought beach towels for each. We packed sheets, blankets, and pillows. Pillows!? As I said, in an instructional tone the morning of our trip, “When I was young, we used to roll up our jeans and use that as a pillow! C’mon people!”

We also packed sleeping bags, a tent, and the blow-up mattress, in case we decided to spend the night under the stars. Then we packed enough food to feed our entire family for the foreseeable future, including drink boxes in four varieties, snacks galore, water bottles and bottles of water (go figure), paper plates, paper towels, toilet paper, and dog food. As my wife said, you never know what the camp is going to need.

Let’s not forget the beach junk. We didn’t. Boogie board, umbrella, two beach blankets, three beach chairs, and 4 life jackets – in case we ended up on a boat, or a kayak, or a canoe. You never know. Sunscreen, bug spray, the camera, the phone chargers. You get the idea.

Once the van was completely packed – and I mean completely -- with enough provisions and gear to get us through fall, 5-year-old Sadie asked, in her concerned voice, “Are we moving?”

Luckily, we did have a van to actually transport the provisions and gear the 50 miles north to the lake house. Real Sherpas would have carried it the whole way. But I do feel bad for the poor soul who had to take all that stuff to and from the van, and then repeat the task the next day with 95 percent of the stuff. The kids drank the juice boxes, accounting for the missing 5 percent of cargo.

In our defense, we are packing for six people, nowadays. I must have heard that defense a hundred times, as I grumbled under the pile of blankets, or beach chairs, or whatever I was carrying.

I guess that’s one way I’m not like a Sherpa. They don’t complain. 

Oh, and they climb mountains.

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