Desert Bag

The last time I remember viewing that sage brush-dotted terrain was 37 years ago when Joan picked me up from the Reno airport and we drove to Susanville where, only a few months before, she’d traded UC Berkeley classes for those at Mt Lassen Junior College.

I had flown only once before on my Senior trip to Disneyland. Exhilarated by independence and oblivious to protocol, I grabbed my suitcase from baggage claim and threw it in Joan’s trunk. The desert scenery flew by as we talked nonstop for the next 2 hours.

Always the good hostess and big sister, Joan carried my bag into the guest room and plopped it on the bed. “Make yourself at home” she said, obviously proud that she had a home, however small, to share.
When we decided to go for a hike, I went to my suitcase for my tennis shoes and discovered a lock that I’d never seen before.

“You grabbed the wrong suitcase, you doe doe!” Joan said with exasperation.

I hung my head in shame. After years of being the coddled youngest child, I’d flubbed my first attempt at self sufficient travel.

Joan called the airline. “My sister picked up the wrong bag on her flight from Oakland.”

“You need to return the bag back to the airport immediately,” they demanded.

“I’m not driving back to the airport,” Joan said flatly. “You need to put my sister’s bag on a bus to Susanville and I will send this bag back to you.”

“That’s not acceptable. That could take a couple of days,” they responded.

My guilt overflowed. “I’ll drive your car back, Joan. They shouldn’t have to wait for their bag because of my stupid mistake.”

But Joan ignored me as she spoke into the phone. “If you want the bag, you’re going to have to wait for it.” That was that. Joan had a way with situations: her way.

As guilty as I felt for having taken that poor person’s bag, I marveled at my 21 year old sister’s control of the situation. Maybe one day I’d learn to be the same way. Even at that time, I doubted it.

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