Travelling with kids: Threadbare but smiling
'Why on earth is your child dressed like a beggar?"
We had just arrived in Mumbai on our annual family holiday, and my mother was already in full flow. She pointed at Calvin, then four years old, and shuddered dramatically.
"These are my travelling clothes, Gramma," said Calvin calmly, before I could recover from her onslaught. "It's what I always wear."
As far as I can remember, Calvin has always wanted to wear his oldest togs while travelling. They consist of a threadbare T-shirt, frayed trackpants and a worn but warm oversized jacket. Oh, and the best part: on his feet, he prefers socks and sandals.
Strange looks from fellow travellers notwithstanding, I am quite proud of my son for staying true to his values. Now eight, Calvin's fashion sense has remained determinedly unaltered because his idea of dressing for travel is all about comfort. He watches with an eagle eye when I'm setting out his clothes for a trip, and always catches me red-handed trying to sneak in a brand new shirt or pair of jeans.
He still insists on carrying the backpack he's had for the past five years, and fills it with the same stuff no matter where we go: tattered copies of The Mini World Atlas, The Airline Guide and Roald Dahl's Esio Trot, a rubber ball, a tiny scale model of an aeroplane, one grubby leopard toy named Snowy, and an extra set of clothes (my husband, ever the keen statistician, says Calvin spills an average of one glass of juice on himself per flight).
When we're leaving for the airport, Calvin is the first to be dressed and ready by the door. Once we're there, he's the first to jump out of the car to bring back a luggage trolley. He insists on being the one to hand over the passports and tickets at check-in, and has never been refused the window seat he always asks for. His favourite time at an airport is the final wait before boarding because he gets to sit cross-legged on the floor and watch, to his heart's content, planes take off and land.
"An aeroplane," he said to me recently, "is the most beautiful thing in the skies."
It has occurred to me that, for Calvin, seeing new places will always be more about the means than the end. I realised this last week when we told him that we'll be in Bangkok, the city of his birth, for Christmas.
He looked at me. "Which airline are we flying?"
I stared at him in utter exasperation. "Aren't you excited about visiting Bangkok?"
He considered this. "I guess I am, but it's the plane ride I'm more excited about.
"Look, Mum, I know you get really tired when we travel, so maybe you should follow my rules: wear your oldest clothes, ask for a window seat, and never leave Snowy behind."
Calvin's travel tenets may be childish, yet I cannot help but grudgingly admire them. The fact is they work like a charm - every single time.
Published: December 8, 2010 04:00 AM