I love my home. It’s a magical place on 23 acres, 5000 vertical feet above my beloved ocean and 1000 horizontal miles from it. It’s nestled in a verdant mountain range in southwestern Montana filled with flowers in the spring and snow in the winter. It’s the perfect home for my suitcases.
They have the whole lower lever of the house to themselves, about a thousand square feet, 2 bedrooms and a full bath. Yet they lay quietly and anxiously in the furnace room closet, huddled up against the folding door, ready to spring forth when they hear my distant voice upstairs declare, “Hello Delta!” I can hear them jockying for positions pressed up against the door as I softly pad down the carpeted hallway past them in stocking feet. They have exceptional hearing.
At all costs, I avoid opening the bi-fold doors until packing day. A pre-mature peak into the closet will lead to an avalanche of bags on my head, followed by hours of coaxing them back into the closet, leaving me leaning heavily against the finally closed door, trying to regain normal breathing. But at the proper time, I pull on the little round door handle and as the ball bearings slide on the metal track folding the doors neatly against the wall, they come tumbling out, one over the top of the other, no one wanting to be left behind, burying me in travel love.
I make my choices…usually the red American Tourister which has remained in the best condition. It’s blue twin nowadays is often left behind, a broken spine forever restricting its handle’s up and down motion. A recent, cheap KMart purchase which saved the day only a few short months ago, will shortly be retired. Serious and inoperable wounds from a tangle with Northwest baggage handling machines has left it with a short but decorated career.
Army duffles are more patient on the closet floor, confident that they will soon whisk hundreds of pounds of dive gear to far off tropical and humid lands. Their greatest concern is keeping their 42″ metal zippers from pulling out against the strain of BCD’s and regulators. They wait, folded in half atop one another, with curious confidence, for the next destination.
I carry my choices tenderly to the packing room, laying them wide open in anticipation of receiving their loads, their gaping maws anxious for the smell of coconut sunscreen and tank tops touting names of exotic destinations across the world. Many of the suitcases and duffles hide souveniers of expeditions past…luggage tags from Bora Bora (airport code BOB), a few left over coins from New Guinea and the perennial favorite…….TSA inspection notices. It causes me to stop and reflect on past adventures and I quietly thank them for keeping these memories in hidden corners of their pockets.
Newcomers to the closet are the heavy duty vinyl climbing duffles…Everest Hard Wear and First Ascent, which signal either a departure from diving or the addition of a new adventure, the bags aren’t quite sure where they fit in just yet. The old timers don’t quite know what to think either. The roll aboards are convinced that while the new bags are young and strong, lacking wheels will be their downfall. Yet they are wary. The army duffles are also concerned. They enviously eye the extra durable zippers and heavy vinyl skins of the climbing bags yet secretly know that only a 42 incher can hold four full sets of dive gear. The climbing duffles may be strong and durable but their strange size will keep them stored near the furnace for many expeditions to come. The confidence of the army duffles return.
Meanwhile the rolling computer bags sit atop them all. They are supreme in their knowledge that in the cyberworld of the 21th century their place on every trip is secure for decades to come.
On this day, however, I am returning from my travels. I unpack the computer bags, store the red American Tourister and retire a dedicated yet now useless blue light KMart special. The bags, as do I, close the door on the latest adventure. I will light a fire, stock the pantry with groceries and with a glass of red wine in hand, watch the snow fall on the back deck of the house. The deer will come at dusk to welcome me home…..at least for awhile. For the next couple of months, HOME will be where the heart is……and the suitcases.