Packing for Thanksgiving: A Child’s Priorities

Hal took it upon himself to pack a suitcase for Thanksgiving. When I got home from a half-day at work Wednesday, Daryl dragged a suitcase big enough for both his and Hal’s clothes to me and said, “This is Hal’s suitcase.”

No one else had packed. Daddy had not yet told them to, so of course, the older two had not done so.

“He’s not getting an entire suitcase to himself,” I told Daryl. “Here, let me have it.”

I opened the suitcase and started taking out clothes. If you’ve ever wondered what a five year old would pack for a three day excursion without parental guidance, here it is:

4 pairs of socks
1 undershirt
1 set of pajamas (mismatched top and bottom)
5 T-shirts
5 long sleeve T-shirts
5 pairs of long pants
1 very large water bottle, full, with the straw tucked in the air hole

No underwear. The omission made me smile as I remembered one of my little brother’s antics when he was even younger than Hal. We were going on a float trip down a river with some of my stepdad’s friends. He and my mother had been dating for a fairly short time. My brother was maybe three years old.

The group was packing the cars in our driveway. Most people were leaving that day although my mom, brother, and I were slated to join them the next day. My brother was excited by all the commotion. He started begging to go so Bill said, “Well, go pack your bags!” My brother ran into the house, grabbed a paper sack, and stuffed a single pair of underwear and his swimsuit into it.

Obviously, Hal has other priorities. The undershirt struck me as odd since he never wears one. They are for wearing under button-down dress shirts and he had packed none of those. Jane later entered the room and remarked that all the clothes sitting there looked like the laundry she had folded and asked Hal to put away.

I repacked with fewer shirts and pants and a full complement of underwear. The next morning, as we prepared to leave, I was frantically looking for my travel phone charger. As part of the search, I looked in the side pocket of Hal’s (now his and Daryl’s) suitcase and discovered that he had packed that pocket as well.

There were half a dozen Hot Wheel cars, a Batman action figure, a couple of action figures I didn’t recognize, and a few other small toys. But something else was in there that impressed me very much. I had added a toothbrush, toothpaste, and a hairbrush to the suitcase when I repacked. I had not, however, remembered to grab his allergy medicine. He had.

The boy has his wits about him. And he knows what’s important to him. Allergy medicine that minimizes his coughing at night: important. Clean underwear: what’s wrong with the pair I’m wearing?

Summer Camp

Daryl was showing considerable reluctance in packing for summer camp. His sister finally grabbed the list of required items sent by the camp and headed into his room to help. We heard her instruct him to find his Bible, a pen, a notebook, a flashlight…

“Ok, you need six pairs of socks.”

“But I’m only going to be there for five days!”

“You need an extra pair in case you have an accident.”

Daryl adopted an indignant expression. With considerable heat, he responded, “I am not going to have an accident.”

“I don’t mean in case you pee in your pants. I mean in case you slip in the mud or something!”

“Oh. Ok.”

Across the hall, my husband and I looked at each other and burst out laughing.

Later that night, shortly after all the children went to bed, I went through his suitcase to verify he had everything. Six pairs of socks, five shorts, six shirts, pajamas… wait.

“Daryl! You are not taking these winter pajamas! Are you crazy? Don’t you have some summer pajamas?!”

“No!” he called from his room.



I called my husband, who was at the store. “Please pick up some pajamas for Daryl. He’ll look like a fool wearing these.”

I continued to dig. Socks, shorts, shirts, pajamas, swimsuit, towels, shoes… Where is his underwear?



I walked into his room and flipped on the light. “You plan on wearing any underwear while you are at camp?”

“Oh. Sorry.” Reacting to my glare, he protested, “But it wasn’t on the list!”

I grabbed six pairs… just in case he has an accident, you know… and returned to the living room. His toothbrush was in a little bag but there was no toothpaste. Daryl is very particular about toothpaste. It can’t be mint or cinnamon, which rules out most of what we have in the house. We had just purchased him a tube of “acceptable” toothpaste earlier in the day.

I called my husband back. “Where’s the toothpaste you bought?”

“I don’t know. I gave it to Daryl.”

“Stay on the phone while I ask him where it is. Just in case you have to buy another one.”

Daryl’s recollection proved faulty. I had to move the suitcase and the sleeping dog to dig through the cushions of the couch, where he thought he had left it. I found a ten pound barbell under the cushions, but no toothpaste. I searched the surrounding area and then instructed my husband to buy another tube.

My final search through the suitcase revealed that Jane and Daryl had mistaken the Aloe Aftersun lotion for sunscreen. The boy hates sunscreen anyway. I can only imagine how upset he’d be to put it on every day and still burn to a crisp. Maybe the counselor would notice the problem. And wonder what the heck is wrong with his mother, most likely.

I’m glad I decided not to trust Jane’s packing assistance. It makes me wonder if I should go through her suitcase to see what’s missing.