If I was a superstar of song and stage, I would headline this stateside trip as above. Granted, while in China I am a bit of a superstar, but China is not America... as I've to condition myself to each time I return. Therefore, this title indicates the general theme of this year's whirlwind visit.
It has been more than just a little while ago that I've taken to the keyboard. In the flurry of stateside visits I did not wish you a happy Lunar New Year, or even welcome you to the Year of the Horse. Doesn't mean you weren't on my mind and it certainly does not indicate that I had no way to blog, seeing as my conspirators have gifted me this wonderful new machine I currently and talking to you on.
Truth is, I've been spoiled rotten. Everywhere I went I was welcomed with open arms... nothing new there. However, it seems this year everyone had it in for me, gift-wise.
Of course, you know Jenn treated me to a trip to the Magic Kingdom (see Goin' Disney entry, posted October 2013). She also surprised me with a flannel sheet set – won't they be toasty in the winter? And the most whimsical of gifts: a pair of zebra-striped footie pajamas, complete with faces on the feet. I love them!!!
My Jenn is simply beautiful. She has lost a substantial amount of weight since last year and has given me my pick of everything that does not fit her anymore. I balked. Remember my minimalist plan? Living with only what I absolutely need? Of course, I need clothes, but not a new outfit for every day, and not excessively dressy clothes. Besides, I only have 1 suitcase, and its weight limit is fifty pounds (22 kilos). And, because I still had a lot of visiting to do, I would have to carry those clothes with me on every plane and lug them around at every stop. However, she pooched her lower lip out when I declined to take some of the clothes. They simply weren't my style or a color I like to wear. Her pouting goaded me to pack everything, leaving shoes and other things behind for her to mail to me.
At the airport in Tampa, in spite of having used compression bags for all those clothes my suitcase was still more than 3 pounds overweight. Picture the mad scramble to lighten my load by 3.5 pounds and finding a place to stuff that excess. My backpack and the laptop case, given me by my conspirators was already full to bursting.
The one thing I was not about to throw away was my Barry Manilow concert ticket stub. I've been a Manilow fan since my tender years, when he was just starting out. He has more than 40 years in the business and I have to reason: how many more concerts will he give? And how likely will it be that I will be able to attend? An evening with Barry was another 'spoilage', but it was I that treated Jenn.
Tampa brought Disney, Barry and the Superbowl. Jenn and I are not football fans so we hung out in her room, watching The Shining and snacking on finger foods like pizza rolls and potato chips. That was the only day that we did not leave the house.
Another thing Tampa brought was the Color Run. For so long Jenn had not been in any kind of shape to take part in anything physical. Her weight loss has given her the strength, ability and desire to take part in The Color Run, a 5K race whose theme is FUN! While savoring amusement by the handfuls, I spilled tears of joy at watching her run. Until recently, I reasoned she would be severely incapacitated within a few years, if not devastatingly ill due to that weight. Way to go, Jenn!!!
Memphis brought a reunion with Lisa and Bonnie, a pedicure, and a massage. Lots of hugs, a peaceful feeling of belonging, conviviality, food, chocolate, more chocolate and even more chocolate. Dove, dark and mint; chocolate Chex Mix with caramel corn. Such a chocolate overload that even now, back home, I resist chocolate. I'm betting that won't last long.
So spoiled rotten was I that I did not have room in my suitcase for everything. Darrell, in California - my last stop before winging back offered up a second suitcase. Sure, it would have been easy to take him up on it. Maybe I wouldn't have had to leave my house shoes behind, and I could have packed the health/beauty aids that I bought to see me through my trip.
Jenn promised to send a package containing all the stuff I had to leave behind: my new shoes, clothing I left in the laundry, gifts for my Chinese friends. If that package had arrived while I was still visiting, I would have been forced to take Darrell up on his offer of a second bag. Was I spared because it did not come?
I have something to look forward to: Darrell will forward that parcel, after including some things I forgot, or that he thinks I might like (read: junk food). I'm all ready to be surprised. Jenn said she also packed a few things she thought I might like.
One surprise I did not know about: the truck. When I opened my computer case at TSA security at LAX, I had to laugh out loud. SOMEhow, one of Ben's trucks found its way into my satchel, and I suspect, not by accident. Apparently it dove in after I packed my laptop, because the case was filled nearly to bursting after I secured the computer. Somehow, my mysterious truck benefactor found room for it.
What I didn't find till I got home: the cherry pie. I knew there was a cherry pie lurking about Darrell's apartment, because that became one of his and my rituals: going to McDonald's for a midafternoon cup of coffee, while Ben napped (Sammie was home to watch him; we did not leave him there alone). That first afternoon, he observed that McDonald's apparently no longer serves cherry pie. At the cost of fifty cents, I made a liar out of him. From that day on, cherry pie and coffee became the staple.
So how did this one, errant cherry pie make it into my bag? Even now I laugh. He must have gone to McDonald's on the sly, snuck it into the house and then into my bag. No other explanation.
Yes, this was indeed a 'spoiled rotten' tour. Back in China, in my unheated apartment, under Sam's watchful and eager eye (he got spoiled rotten, too), I raked over my wealth: a bottle of perfume I would never have bought for myself. Flannel sheets and footie jammies, wicking socks and extra thick ski socks, clothes and more clothes, books, top of the line computer with case... and let's not forget my cast iron skillet, I reflect how rich I am. Not in materials… while nice, 'things' matter very little in the end, don't you know. Rich in love, in friends, in happiness, experience and memories. More than the sheets, the jammies and the socks, that is what keeps me warm.
If you think I was the only one spoiled rotten this year, you are wrong.
I started accumulating gifts for my loved ones as early as March. Come time to pack and head stateside, I was in a tizzy: I had more gifts than I had suitcase to pack them in! With no time to buy a second suitcase, I improvised. Having received a package in a sturdy, triple corrugate box, I reasoned I could use that box as a makeshift suitcase. (Probably) no one would frown on it, seeing as last year, when I performed in the Teacher Talent Showcase for our school, I used a box as a prop and was asked repeatedly if I was returning to America. Over here, boxes, with a handle fashioned out of tape or string is considered luggage.
Except for the nouveau riche Chinese. They wish to display their wealth by any means possible. Air travel is one way to do so, and shiny new luggage is another. So here I am, this foreigner with a box and a duffel bag for luggage, among Chinese towing their rollaround, hardshell suitcases.
You could say I was displaying my Chinese-ness while they were showing their wealth.
I only took 3 sets of clothes with me, and hardly any health/beauty aids. What filled my suitcase?
Gifts. Small, large, extravagant and handmade gifts. From me, from Sam, from Gary. Gifts filled my suitcase. My measly 3 sets of clothing went into the cardboard box.
See? I wasn't the only one spoiled rotten, this tour!