Welcome to the inaugural run of the #TrailingSpouseStories blog crawl hosted by Tala Ocampo and Didi of D for Delicious.
This November we talk about our First Voyage as trailing spouses and what we’ve brought with us, rather: what’s in your suitcase? Please see the end of the post for other #TrailingSpouseStories.
What would you bring with you if you only had 50 lbs of personal belongings to your name?
Not much really. Not even as much as I could’ve and would’ve wanted to fit into my 27″ fuschia suitcase.
I had so little time to mull over what to bring back then. In the middle of juggling planning a wedding, tying up loose ends at work and preparing for a trip, it was tough. But it came down to the bare essentials.
I already knew what not to bring.
In as much as I wanted to I didn’t bring my carefully curated collection of gastronomy books – my Ruth Reichl books, my Food Lover’s Companion, Michael Ruhlman’s The Making of a Chef, My Life in France by Julia Child and more, my complete hard-bound set of The Harry Potter books and hundreds more dog eared, yellowing pocketbooks I’ve devoured and re-devoured through the years.
My childhood photographs, photo scrapbooks, painstakingly made by my teenaged self, handwritten diaries, old school newspapers, test papers, notebooks, a withering Seniors’ ball corsage and other keepsakes all left behind in storage boxes, never to see the light of day, never to feel the tender gaze of a nostalgic me.
My vacuum sealed wedding dress, which I don’t know exactly where it is or more so, don’t know if I would be able to wear it again, fearing that fresh white eyelet cotton would succumb to the appetite for dust and gnaw of mold over time.
I let go my favorite holey pambahay (i.e. for the house) shirts and sheer-from-countless-times-laundered oversized night shirts, whose cool, tattered by time cotton has kept me ultra comfortable through the years. Their fates now sealed to become the next household basahan (i.e. rags) or hand me downs to my three other sisters left at home.
I also said goodbye to piles of clothes, pairs of shoes that would not serve my basic everyday functions: exercise, eating out, chilling at home and the occasional job interview.
Adieu too to the testaments of achievement – medals, plaques, trophies, certificates – things myself and my parents have worked very hard for over 12 years in competitive swimming.
I packed 20 outfits, 3 pairs of shoes, 10 books that I thought I could never part with, 2 photographs from our wedding photobooth, a laptop, a camera, impertinent travel documents – passport, visa, birth certificate and marriage certificate and my favorite pillow. Yes, just because I love that pillow.
That was all.
Of course, in the almost 2 years spent in Dubai, I accumulated “stuff” – clothes, shoes, books, knick knacks. Perhaps to refill the void that was left behind? Or maybe because I did need, or, most likely, wanted that “stuff” at some point in the Dubai life.
So when The Husband and I knew that we were leaving for the US, I sighed. The trip required another pillage and purge of my personal belongings. Over a month, our studio apartment went topsy turvy as we did a careful inventory of things to be sent home, things to be given away and things to bring with us to the US.
It was painful to part with the delicately hand painted Tunisian ceramic dinner set I bought from Global Village as well as our Moroccan tea set, a silver teapot embossed with elaborate moorish detail and six-tea glasses etched with an intricate gold design.
The small kitchen appliances we’ve acquired: a hand blender set, which I’ve painstakingly picked, and the airfryer, we had to send home. The US has a different voltage than the rest of the world. The smart TV that we’ve saved up for also had to go.
More books I had to send home, including a few on Philippine cuisine to help me cook some Filipino favorites at home without any guidance from my parents and relatives.
Funny how, apart from the usual clothes, gadgets and personal effects, I packed things I never imagined were really essential. Two pillow cases from my husband’s old bachelor bedroom. Two multi-colored Ikea aprons and a matching pair of oven mitts. Those two wedding photographs and another photograph of us with Samwise Gamgee (a.k.a Sean Astin), which was taken at the Middle East Film and Comic Con. The Zwilling knife that I won. A huge tub of ground tawas (i.e. Potassium alum) to hopefully last us a year or maybe two. And, again, my favorite pillow.
That was all.
Come to think of it, 50 lbs is only half an averaged weighted 5″ tall (or short) person. But to me, what I thought were the sparse contents of my suitcase was more that half of me. I’ve emptied myself of who I was to make more room for what I could be, to be filled up again with new everything – country, family, friends, job…a new life elsewhere.
How about you fellow trailing spouse? What did you bring in your suitcase?
Read more #TrailingSpouseStories at the links below:
- Jenny’s story on MyMommyology
- Marc’s story on Fatherland
- Tala’s story on Tala Ocampo
- Shine’s story also on Tala’s blog
- Nix’s story on Driving Spiderman
- Glendale’s story on My Kandy Krush
- Char’s story on Ice Cream Sessions
- Tracy’s story on Tala’s blog
- Milen’s story on Tala’s blog
- Didi’s story on D for Delicious
- Cath’s story on D for Delicious
- Molly’s story on The Move to America
- Third’s story on Pinoy in America