I woke up today—three days before I fly across the world and live in China for the next ten months of my life—and thought to myself: what am I going to bring with me?
Limited to two suitcases, one carry-on, and one personal item, my first decision was an easy one: I would leave one suitcase empty. After all, I already plan on accumulating trinkets, souvenirs, fine teapots, calligraphy brushes, kilograms of delicious oolong tea, and a guqin.
Then came my mother, her voice slicing through my bedroom and her hands proudly brandishing a pair of vomit-green pants. “Look!” she exclaimed. “I got these on sale! You can wear them in China.”
I flopped over onto the other side of my bed and said, “I don’t want to bring too much.”
“Nonsense,” she replied. “One pair of pants is definitely not too much.”
A painful flashback brought me back to the weeks leading up to the fateful day I moved into Pomona College. That same line repeated itself until I ended up lugging an excess of clothing—three quarters of which I have yet to wear, even after four years.
“It’s alright,” I insisted, turning towards the warmer side of my bed. “If I need pants, I’ll just buy them there.”
She tossed the pair of pants at me; it landed somewhere near my head.
“Do you think I work day and night so you can waste money on pants that are not on sale?” she was understandably frustrated. “Try them on at least.”
I reached for them, opened half an eye, and rolled back over to the other side of my bed (the cooler side was a bit more pleasant in the summer heat).
“I think you got this from the women’s section.”
She walked over to me, her slippers shuffling on the linoleum floor. “Are you sure?”
I sat up and pointed at the label: Size 0. “Yup, see for yourself.”
She picked it up and laughed, “You’re so skinny you’d fit in it anyways.”
That’s true. I would. She left me to my own devices as she got ready for work. I breathed a sigh of relief—perhaps this time, I would finally be able to leave the house with an empty suitcase.