On Friday, my sister invited me over to help pack my suitcase. Or more accurately her suitcase, as I don't have one. Hers have funky little bouquets of ribbons attached to the handles–the better to identify them at baggage claim apparently. She knows these things. She knows about Gold Bond medicated powder and Downy Wrinkle Release and three ounce bottles for shampoo. She travels.  Her suitcase expands even. Wheels, just the right size not to incur airline fees.

She also knows me well enough to know that I don't have a makeup bag, and that when I showed up at her door with everything I had to contribute to the packing, I would be empty handed. I don't own summer clothes–I stay inside when it gets hot. I definitely don't have evening wear. Unless you count my flannel pj's. She told me to come over anyway, and she would go through her skinny clothes. She's the Clothing Queen, so I believed her when she said she'd have something to fit.

What I didn't know was that when she suggested we have a suitcase packing party, she meant a suitcase packing party. As in decorate your house like Martha Stewart–skip that, you are way better than Martha–bake a caramelized apple cake, pull out the goblets, the Italian sodas and invite the girls over. And tell them to bring clothing.

When I arrived, her bathroom was filled with clothing. Women arrived with arm loads of laundry–not all of it laundered–one of my favorite people in the world is this woman who can show up with a pile of clothes and admit she didn't have time to wash them, but she did spray them with perfume. I love that. Would you admit you'd done that? I'd probably show up empty handed. And can I just say her jeans were to die for?

So I start trying clothes on. I can hear them in the kitchen laughing and eating and when I come out with an outfit that works they all ooh and ahh, and make suggestions. One of them helps me get a stubborn zipper up. Nobody is offended if I don't pick their clothes. They offer me shoulder bags and books.  

By the end of the night I have tried on clothes I wouldn't take a second look at in the store. I am surprised to like many of the things I like. I'm wearing jewelry. Me. High heels. I have so many outfits to choose from I have to leave some of them behind.  One woman runs home three times to get the perfect little black dress, her tote of swimwear or just the right top.

I am overwhelmed by their generosity. Which means, being me, of course, I say very little. I talk about other things, far away from what I am feeling. I can't believe they are letting me take their sandals and their jewelry and the stunning scarf bought in London. London.

I finally get at least one utterance out. I say, "I can't believe you're letting me take your clothes." 

"But that's what sisters do!" This from the RS president. My neighbor. The woman with the swimsuits and the killer scarf. And that skirt

Sisters. That's what we do. Blood relations and neighbors and women I have never even met but who must have hips formed in the same mold as I and who shop at way smarter places than I do, apparently.

I am overwhelmed. I am grateful. I'm definitely going to abandon my original plan which involved a length of no-iron percale. It isn't that I couldn't have done this on my own. I could have stayed up late after Thanksgiving dinner and packed a duffle bag. I could have gone to the mall in Tampa and found some black heels. I could have done that. But now.

Now I am going on vacation and the only thing in my bag that belongs to me are the ones I wear right next to my skin. After that it's piece by precious piece of other women. I have so many options I'm even wearing their clothes to the airport. Dress great, right from the start, they tell me–as soon as you leave your door. They tell me what to do about my legs that haven't seen sun since 1994, and how to prevent sea sickness and what to wear to dinner. My little sister, who has spent all day preparing for this event–all week probably–and will stay up into the wee hours cleaning up the disaster in her bathroom, kneels on the floor to roll each item and packs it precisely. I joke that this way, when the ship goes down, there will be lots of mourners, as I take their favorite peices down to the bottom of the Carribbean with me. The next day she shows up at my door with a shopping bag full of items I might need. Dramamine. Sleeping pills (my sister the pharmacist). Mexican money even. Travel sized toothpaste. The bag is so full I haven't got to the bottom of it yet. I trust her that I'll need whatever it is that's in there.


Does it get more Zion than that?   


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