Her Ladyship

Notes from the gutter.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Back in the saddle(bag) again

When I went to grad school in Italy, it was my first time traveling abroad. I was very worried about standing out as an American so I made sure to get the most sedate, boring Jansport backpack I could find. I shouldn't have bothered - Italians at that point were in lurrrve with Invicta backpacks, which came in every fluorescent color of the rainbow.  So if you couldn't blind people with your backpack, you clearly weren't Italian.

During spring break of the year I was in Italy, I had some friends come visit me from the States.  We traveled up and down Italy and managed to make it to Florence on the weekend when its leather market was open. Florence's leather market is spectacular, and I think every student in my program bought at least one or two things from there. We all saw the drill about how you can tell a good piece of leather (doesn't scratch easily, can be lit with a flame and not burn) and bought into the hype.  So when my backpack exploded while crossing the Tiber River in Rome a few days before we were in Florence, I thought - score, I'll buy a new bag in Florence and it will be my grown-up bag. After much, much, much shopping and agonizing, I bought a black saddlebag that cost me the princely sum of $100 (hey, for a student, it was a lot of money). I justified it with the excuse that I would use it for years.

Boy, did I. I stuffed that poor bag full and kept ripping the shoulder strap out and bursting the bottom seams, but I kept getting it fixed and resewn.  Finally, I knew that the end was nigh when the fixes wouldn't last and when the bag was so beat up that the repair person thought it started off life as a brown bag.  This was after 15 years of love and abuse.  I still couldn't bear to part with the bag so I stowed in my closet in the hopes that technology will advance at some point in the future to where it can be revived. 

I thought, okay, maybe this can be my thing: I'll buy a bag when I go overseas and it will be a nice souvenir and an unusual bag.  Imagine my excitement when I found out in India that Agra is known for its leather goods; imagine my frustration when I found that out the day after I'd been in Agra and was in Jaipur instead. Still, my tour guide gamely took me to a bag shop where I had the option of looking at an elephant ear bag (the salesguy assured me that elephants were sacred and so the one who donated the leather for my bag had died of natural causes). I ended up getting one made out of camel, which I'm sure also died of natural causes, ahem. 

It was a beautiful bag but weird in that it repelled zipper heads. Like, literally. I would get them replaced and within 24 hours, they would spring themselves free without anyone touching them.  After having spent probably the equivalent of the bag on zipper heads, I decided that perhaps that bag wasn't working out.

So I bought another bag on another trip. This time, this was during a trip to Japan and I bought a purple pleather Hello Kitty purse.  It was fabulous because it looked like it was an imprinted Chanel bag but when you got close, it was printed with Hello Kitty's.  I got more compliments on that bag.  Unfortunately, pleather doesn't have a hugely long lifespan. I took it to my repair guy who threw his hands up at the thought of working on pleather. I begged him to do what he could and he did with the caveat that the bag was on its last legs. It made it two more months and then died, again, spectacularly (sensing a trend here?) while on a trip to Korea this spring.

At that point, I added up what I'd spent on bags in the two years since retiring my Italian saddlebag and decided enough was enough.  I would just suck it up, spend the money to get a really good quality bag, and that way it would last for years and years without my having to invest more money into it. The Texan found me a gorgeous bag online from a group that promised a 100-year warranty.  We ordered it, it arrived and was even more beautiful and sturdier than we'd thought, and I set off happily using it, safe under the assumption that this bag was guaranteed for 100 years so there was very little I could do to harm it. It had no moving parts (like zippers or snaps) and was double-stitched. 

Of course, you know where this is going.  Within one month of receiving that bag, I'd managed to somehow pop a rivet.  The company gamely agreed to fix it for free and even paid for shipping. It came back from the shop this week and I've been using it but am a little less confident in its ability to last 100 years. We shall see. 

Sunday, August 11, 2013

First family vacation

Well, we survived (and I would dare to say, enjoyed) our first family vacation.  The Texan and I thought we could handle a short road trip with the baby, so we picked a place that neither of us had been and that we could reach within a reasonable day's drive: Niagara Falls.  And we stayed on the Canadian side, so hey - international travel, check!

I was a little worried about the trip itself and a lot worried about how the rooming situation would work out.  The trip itself went fine, except La Principessa cried both times we drove through Buffalo (although, as the Texan pointed out, she surely isn't the first person to cry every time they drive through Buffalo).  Also, she lost. her. shit. when we were about a mile from our house on the way back home.  She was clearly done with the trip and ready to be home, as were we.* But really, she was quite good and happy to chirp to herself while the Texan and I drove along. 

The rooming situation ended up being fine too. We upgraded to a "suite" but it still meant that when she went to bed, we had to turn on the lights over our heads in bed and read quietly to ourselves. That actually was pretty relaxing and forced us to go to sleep fairly early. La Principessa even got used to sleeping in a pack and play that the hotel provided.**

Traveling with a baby is, shockingly, different from traveling without one. It forced us (okay, me) to slow down a bit. We scheduled something in the morning each day we were there and then took the rest of the day easy.  We drove up to Niagara on the Lake, which was indeed as pretty as advertised, and did the Maid of the Mist tour.*** La Principessa got to have a plastic tarp over her stroller and I broke down and bought the tacky tourist photo they take of you before you get on the boat because aw, look how cute she looks!

We've got some more travel scheduled for next month, including, god help us, airplane travel.  But this was a good first trip. 

* Along these lines, I have never seen such a happy kid as La Principessa when she realized she was back in her own crib. 

** At home, she likes to spin in circles in her crib, and usually does at least one full rotation per night. In the pack and play, she didn't have room to pull a full 360.

*** At least, once we found it. You would think with the huge waterfall, it would be easy to figure out where the boat was coming from.  Took us for-e-ver.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

One year ago today

One year ago today, I woke up and checked, par usual, my cell phone.  I had multiple missed calls: a bunch from my sister, which wasn't unusual; a few from my dad, which was; and a couple from my brother-in-law, which was completely unheard of. My mom had been taken to the ER the day before and I realized that, unlike the previous two times she had been brought to the ER in the past year, something had gone wrong.  It was 9am my time, which meant that none of my family in California was up and answering their phone. I didn't have to wait long.  Within about 20 minutes, my dad called me back and confirmed what I was worried had happened: my mom had finally died. 

She had been failing for some time prior, and like I said, she'd fallen into this pattern where her blood pressure would drop so much that they would take her to the ER. She'd stay there for a couple of days, get stable, be transitioned to a care facility, and then stay there for a few days/weeks/months until she was ready to come home.  Wait a few months, and the whole cycle would start all over again. So when my family called the day before to let me know she'd been taken in to the ER again, I was concerned, but not overly so.  I felt certain enough that it would be the same old same old that when I went to bed (and I went to bed early because I was about five months pregnant and in the exhaustion phase), I didn't bother to take my phone with me.  I still feel bad about my sister having to be there at the end, by herself, being unable to reach me.

I had planned to go to California in the end of August for my 20th high school reunion. After some thought, we decided to stick to that plan and hold a memorial service for her that same weekend.  It turned out to be a really nice event. We had it at the local performing arts center, got some caterers to take care of the food, had my brother-in-law and sister put together a fantastic slide show with pictures of my mom as we all remembered her, and hit up a few of her former colleagues and students to see if they would be willing to talk at the memorial.  I had been worried about getting through it, but it was really wonderful to see so many people there with their own great memories of my mom. Oddly enough, it turned out to be a better reunion than my high school reunion the night before - maybe 30 people came to that reunion, while I think about 120 people signed in at my mom's service.   

I have been dreading this week for some time now, which is stupid because one year, 11 months, 13 months later, it's all the same. Grief is grief.  I guess you just have to get through it.