Vacay.ca is running a series of articles from our writers about Mother’s Day and how travel can enhance relationships. We’d be delighted to hear about your favourite travel experience or photo that shows your appreciation of time spent with Mom or with your kids! Email us!
Story by Jody Robbins
Never let the size of your suitcase limit your potential. I hear these words in my head, and it’s the voice of my mother. “Packing it all in” is the unofficial mantra for the women in my family, one we lived every trip we took.
Tucking fresh lobster into an already packed suitcase? No sweat. Hauling Target furniture across the US border and back to Canada? Please! With an air of confidence and a fresh application of lipstick, Mom demonstrated how to navigate around those pesky airline clerks and customs officials. To my knowledge, there’s never been a duty paid, item ruined in transit or bounty left behind. That would be a sin, you know.
With a wanderlust spawning several continents and decades, Mom loved to see new places and, most importantly, hunt down their treasures. I was taught from a young age to not only look for bargains, but to search for unique items you could use in your daily life to remind you of your trip — the real purpose of a souvenir.
Quick confession: in the ’70s there was some overzealous participation in spoon collecting. Fortunately, this went the way of disco and the ’80s brought us back to the challenge and adventure only big-ticket items can bring.
Dad would shake his head at our trophies, then go on his version of a shopping trip, stalking the woods for deer and antelope. But, unlike him, when the Robbins gals went hunting, we never came back empty-handed.
Any excuse could be used for a trip. Dresses procured at West Edmonton Mall, ensured one didn’t show up at the grade nine commencement ceremonies wearing the same peach confection as everyone else. Bedding discovered in Montana was more durable. And one simply could not find fat-free tartar sauce in southern Alberta.
As we matured, so did our tastes, and the UK became our mecca. Within minutes of touching down at Heathrow, we’d be in Boots, stocking up on fizzy vitamin C tablets, Eyedew and By Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen, Kent hair brushes. Then we’d be off to central London, making de rigueur stops at Fortnum & Mason for gentlemen’s relish and tins of tea, before marvelling at the Harrods food hall, with its impossibly perfect fruit and well-heeled clientele.
Eventually, I would move to London and welcomed my mom and sister for week-long shopping excursions. Eschewing our former haunts, we navigated our way through the high streets of the West End (Jane Asher in Chelsea rocks) and refreshment breaks on the top floor of Harvey Nics.
Back in Canada, I recently saw my sister on a quick visit to Calgary. Since Mom passed away, we rarely see each other because, well, she lives in Regina, and you only make that drive if you have to. Meeting at a mall, for the few hours she had instead of catching up over a meal, was a no-brainer.
But when I met her, something was amiss. She was without bags. “How long have you been here?” I asked. “Are you all right?” She assured me she was fine. She’d been at the mall for an hour and already made a haul back to the car. Mom would’ve been proud.
Our mother’s memory lives in several forms, as her souvenirs now permeate our daily lives. There’s the hand towel from Norway, three-inch-thick duvet lugged back from Scotland, New Zealand napkins, Finnish thermos, Japanese asparagus tray, and one handsome toilet bowl brush from France (mais ouis!). These all reside in (and sometimes move between) the homes of her children.
But Mom’s travel legacy, I recently learned, is genetic. “Don’t worry, Mom,” my spunky seven-year-old consoled as she watched me attempt to zip up another overflowing suitcase after our week in Mexico, “you’re a Robbins girl. We can pack anything.”
MORE MOTHER’S DAY TRAVEL STORIES
Janine MacLean: Off to Korea, never far from home
Kathleen Kenna: Finland made unforgettable thanks to Mom
Nicole Keck: Moms are our first travel companions
Tricia Edgar: What happens when you put down the camera on a family vacation