I am an incurable romantic and quite capable of being brought to tears by the most improbable of situations. Today was one of those days where I have been reduced to a melancholy and teary reflection based on a decision that had to be made. Today, I parted company with Big Red, my well traveled, reliable suitcase. Big Red was huge and clunky compared to the standards of today’s suitcases with over 6,400 cubic inches of carrying space. His wheels were worn out, his retractable handle long ago succumbed to the indignity of duct tape and his zipper, twice replaced, had seen better days. His ballistic nylon fabric, once deep red, had faded and he had actually suffered a mysterious burn somewhere and his sides were deeply worn along the edges. After one long flight, he limped off the baggage carousel with a puncture and tear caused by some errant fork lift. It couldn’t be repaired.
Big Red had the good genes that came from the original line of Tumi Luggage. He was built for the long haul with an internal frame that was sturdy and still light in weight. That suitcase logged thousands and thousands of miles with me. From the first transatlantic trip to London in 1998 when my son was spending his junior year abroad in college, to his last stint as a modest storage space for smaller bags and briefcases in the rented storage area of our current life, Big Red was serviceable.
If he could tell stories, one of his most interesting was likely to be the time he traveled on a misdirected itinerary all the way to the west coast, without me. Carrying my business attire and presentation materials, the airline sent him to California where he spent a full three days, presumably bumming around the baggage areas of San Diego and Los Angeles before being returned to me at my hotel in Chicago. As a result of the mistake, Big Red earned me a generous settlement from the airline when I was able to show that I needed new business attire for the meetings and two new St. John suits and a new pair of Ferragamo shoes came home with us from that stint. As of today, Big Red joins the suits and the shoes in the “liberated stuff” department.
For nearly two decades, London and Paris and Munich would have appeared on Big Red’s itinerary along with the annual vacations to Wyoming. Big Red saw the beaches of Maui, the wild beauty of Nova Scotia, the rainforests of Washington, the cherry blossoms of the nation’s capitol, the redwoods, and the red rocks of Santa Fe, the Grand Canyon. Big Red carried clothing for vacations and business trips and weddings, and anniversaries, and funerals and graduations.
Among our friends, Big Red had earned quite a reputation. When fully loaded, he would have been over the weight limits for checked bags today. It wasn’t unusual for me to ask for help from travel companions to get him into and out of the trunk of a rental car, or up the stairs to a second floor walk up, or across the gravel walk ways to our cabin at the Triangle X. Big Red began airline travel before 9/11 when his wheels were new and shiny and getting through airports was a breeze.
Later he suffered multiple examinations after being pulled out of line by zealous TSA inspectors at baggage check points who found his dozens of pockets and inside zippers and garment carrying compartments the potential mother lode of secrets. Aside from one unfortunate example of poor decision-making on my part when packing in Key West, he was rarely hassled for more than a minute or two. But that’s a story for another time.
Big Red was preceded in my life by a hard-sided, yellow Samsonite suitcase that also served me for 20 years. He was considered high tech and flashy when new and worth every bit of what he cost. He was retired from airline travel when we took to the road in 2014 and by that time, he had little stamina left in him. He spent the last 4 years in the climate controlled environment of the storage facility here in New Hampshire and this was the year of further cleaning out and letting go as the momentum of change continues in our lives. Big Red is a wonderful metaphor for what is new in our lives on the road. It used to be he would transport our personal necessities from our bricks and mortar abode to the temporary domicile of a hotel or friend’s place and then back, always. Now, both our personal necessities and our abode are with us always. We aren’t leaving with the former to a distant location and then circling back to the latter. It is all one and the same on this pilgrimage.
And so today, I released him, so grateful for his companionship and service over the decades. After all, the one thing we can all count on in life is change.