Someone in the family once said that, if you mentioned that there was a trip in the works, Gram would go pack and be ready in about 30 minutes. Her little red suitcase was an appendage that accompanied her most places she went. Since I find it difficult to travel lightly, I have always been amazed as to how she did this. To travel lightly means to pare down what you take along with you to the bare minimum. Experts in traveling this way have no real idea, I think, what bare minimum could mean to someone like my grandmother.
The suitcase looked like a red box to me and was the approximate size of a briefcase. I believe she may have used only a slightly larger suitcase if she traveled by train up east to see relatives or went on a couple of car trips with my family to California, otherwise it was just that little suitcase. My father had a habit of making last minute travel plans with no specific length of time that we might be gone or where we might end up. He was in awe of how Gram could get herself ready on such short notice. Once we went to Carlsbad only to end up in Colorado with only our summer clothes and were greeted by some cold weather. I imagine, if Gram came with us, she sensibly tucked in a sweater with some lesser
necessities. For me, as a teenager, all my necessities included hair rollers, hairdryer, makeup, several changes of clothing etc. Some of these items even went along with me on a camping trip. Not so with with Gram. First of all, she only used a touch of face powder. She probably only needed a dressier pair of sturdy shoes, her gown, robe and house slippers, a simple cotton dress and maybe one nice suit or dress, and only enough underwear she could wash by hand when necessary. She certainly did not concern herself with packing much for several days at a relative’s home even if this meant coming to our house where Dad might decide that business was slow and we could leave on a trip (school or not) and Gram, the happy vagabond, was ready to go.
When I was in high school, my grandmother was taken to the hospital with a high fever and eventually went into a coma. The entire family gathered. I remember standing in the doorway of her room seeing and hearing her long-time female doctor yelling “Sophie come back.” Sophie did not come back, as she was on her final journey. I walked to the end of the hallway where a cousin’s wife stood by a window holding Gram’s little red suitcase. We stood there together in silence and grief knowing we would be taking that little suitcase back to my aunt’s house.
I learned so much from that fine lady about the many ways to be gracious and kind, how there are many ways to show love and affection, and how to appreciate a child’s saying thank you only with her eyes and not with words (as she put it) and then not reprimanding the child for that mistake. I learned that what really matters in life is family and other loved ones and that the necessities in life should be as simple as what one packs in a very small suitcase. The other baggage that you carry through life can only weigh you down. How I would love to see my grandmother standing at my front door today with that little red suitcase. There are so many days I need to remember how to lighten my burdens and concern myself with only the necessities."
by Sherrill Pool Elizondo