We arrived in Nantes a lovely town in the Loire-Atlantique region of France on May 10th. We had flown overnight, navigated Charles De Gaulle Airport and landed safely in the place that would be our homes for the next two weeks.
Exhausted, we waited for our luggage. Dozens of bags snaked along the conveyer, delivering its load to the owners. I knew the process would be lengthy, so I talked to my students as I kept one eye on the cherry-picked line of pink, black, taped, oversized bags.
Then all of the suitcases were gone. I looked around, distracted. Everyone was struggling to hoist their luggage onto a cart, except me. My buggy was empty, save one carry-on that contained a change of clothes, a few outfits for my daughter and … I couldn’t remember what else.
The airline representative clicked toward us in high-heeled shoes. She already seemed to know the answer to her question.
“Anyone missing a bag?”
Arrgggh! I thought.
“Yes,” I answered aloud.
I looked down at the scrawl on her clipboard.
“That’s me,” I said, pointing to my name.
“Follow me, please.”
My students watched as I walked toward the service counter. But I was noticing the light blue scarf tied neatly around the representative’s neck. “I miss my neckerchief,” I thought.
It’s funny, but I couldn’t remember the other contents of my 40-pound suitcase. Essentials, to be sure, but which shoes? Which dress? Which …. gadget?
The same thing happened to three of my students last year. We were annoyed, and one even refused to leave her room at first because she was so upset. I remember thinking, “I’m glad that didn’t happen to me.” But why didn’t I think it would happen to me?
I’ve evacuated had to evacuate my home when hurricanes threatened Florida’s northeast coast. At the time, I remember wondering how much stuff I could shove into my car as we fled the storm. Since I had the choice, I could decide what I couldn’t live without.
I feel silly now when I think about victims of Hurricane Katrina, many of whom are still without houses. I feel frivolous when I’m reminded of families who have lost loved ones to war. They had no choice and surrendered so much.
My losses are relatively insignificant. I’m without golashes, boots, pants and sweaters. When the stores open, will I buy more junk, stuff and things?
At the moment, my daughter’s safe at home with my husband, and my parents are healthy. My students surprised me with a long-stemmed rose with yellow petals and delicate red tips as they wished me Happy Mother’s Day. Those things matter.
Within each loss are lessons: How we perceive losses, how we handle them teaches us most of all about ourselves.
This, I believe.
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