A Family Affair | By Alan Shapiro

There are the trips you take on your own, there are the trips you take with your family, and then there are the trips you take with MY family. Don’t get me wrong – I love my family to bits—but there’s something about a family trip that makes everyone go… absolutely insane, myself included.

For Christmas, we are off to Hawaii, a paradise island at once so close to home and so far away that flying there takes eternity and then some. The size of our suitcases is something out of a scene from Goldilocks and the Three Bears. My parents have the biggest suitcase, my older brother’s is slightly smaller, mine is the size of a lunchbox, and my little brother gets stuck with the short end of the stick.

Packing starts simple: two weeks’ worth of clothes, swim trunks, a few books, and my laptop. Until the extra items started coming in…

“Alan, do you have space for cereal?”

“Why do we need to take cereal with us?”

“Well, you know how we’re all picky eaters”

I shake my head and pack the cereal. Next come several cans of sardines. These, of course, are essential when the risk exists of crash-landing in the Pacific. Step 1. Put on life jacket. Step 2. Find a life raft. Step 3. Retrieve suitcase from baggage carousel. Step 4. Find a fork and reward yourself with sardines. Always remember, in the case of sudden change in cabin pressure, always put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.

I pack the sardines, versace shampoo, mittens and a scarf, enough medications to wipe out a small city, a 2-litre glass bottle of water, toilet paper. My suitcase is now well over the 50 pound weight limit.

“It’s overweight.”

“Don’t worry, we’ll figure it out.”

“Can we figure it out now?”

“Stop worrying, it’ll be fine.”

But it won’t be fine. Of the fees in this world that my family refuses to pay, excess baggage costs top the list. We walk up to the service counter in the airport. The suitcase weighs 57 pounds. I give my dad a look.

“Move the heavy stuff!”


“Just move it somewhere!”

My backpack is filled to capacity with an assortment of socks and underwear. 54 pounds. The line behind us is growing impatient. The agent sighs and lets us through.

Somehow, security goes smoothly. Only four bottles of water are confiscated. A full-body scan confirms that my mother is not, in fact, concealing throwing knives or an assault rifle.

The pre-boarding announcement sounds over the stereo. “At this time, we would like to invite families with small children, any passengers seated in an exit row, or passengers requiring extra time to board.” We are the first in line, just behind a family of 8 with 2 small children. My younger brother is 16. The attendant gives us a look but lets us through.

And so, we board.

Hawaii brings volcanoes and green sand beaches, goat cheese and macadamia nuts. At long last, the trip is over, and we are bound for home.

“Alan, we didn’t finish the cereal. Is there room in your suitcase?”


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