Big­ger car and it’s in the bag

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel - James Jef­frey

IT is Santa’s fault my daugh­ter packs so much for her hol­i­days. Daisy is only five, but she’s al­ready turn­ing up her nose in dainty dis­dain at the idea of trav­el­ling light. Even a short trip into town sees her stuff­ing a back­pack, in­spired by thoughts of her jolly hero ef­fort­lessly trav­el­ling the world with his fly­ing rein­deer and enough toys in his bag for all the chil­dren on the planet. Given that she’s been plan­ning to marry Santa and live with him (at least un­til global warm­ing puts paid to the North Pole), she’s been putting her­self through train­ing.

Es­sen­tials for an out­ing of a few hours’ du­ra­tion can in­clude books, jew­ellery, fresh flow­ers, fairy wand and dress (with a spare pair of wings in re­serve), crayons, pa­per, emer­gency blob of Play­dough, a pair of party shoes, bug­catcher (res­i­dent slug op­tional), fridge mag­nets, peb­bles for throw­ing into any wa­ter we may en­counter, and a packet of sul­tanas.

Any sug­ges­tion she may want to con­sider ra­tio­nal­is­ing her load (partly on the grounds that I’ll end up car­ry­ing it and I’m not ready for a her­nia) are greeted as fi­nal proof that grown-ups are silly. She gives me a gen­tly pity­ing look, holds my hand for a mo­ment, then heads off to start pick­ing out dol­lies and some ex­tra large peb­bles, just to make a point.

By the time she’s done, she hands me a small back­pack with a strained zip­per and the den­sity of a neu­tron star; Daisy may have in­vented the Tardis bag.

If we’re head­ing off on a longer ex­pe­di­tion, she is up to the chal­lenge. I only have to men­tion the word hol­i­day and a gleam steals across Daisy’s eyes as she be­gins coolly pro­cess­ing the lo­gis­tics of how to squeeze ev­ery­thing she owns into her bags. Be­fore I know it, she’s pot­ter­ing out­side to size up our sta­tion wagon, eye­ing the empty boot like an ar­chi­tect con­tem­plat­ing a va­cant block. ‘‘ Daddy,’’ she says, ‘‘ I think we might need a big­ger car.’’

She gets down to work, tip­ping the con­tents of draw­ers and toy boxes in the di­rec­tion of her lug­gage, paus­ing to ponder what her fu­ture hus­band would do, hands on her hips as she re­gards the size of the task be­fore her with a due sense of awe. Wor­ry­ingly, her lit­tle brother tot­ters around af­ter her, study­ing and learn­ing, keen to em­u­late his idol and al­ready aware that a cou­ple of bibs, toys and a cu­bic me­tre of dis­pos­able nap­pies con­sti­tute a woe­fully in­ad­e­quate amount of lug­gage to be seen with in pub­lic.

Some­how, my wife and I man­age to ne­go­ti­ate the pay­load down­wards. We shoe­horn ev­ery­thing in and, as the car creaks omi­nously, Daisy looks pleased and de­clares this is how good the elves feel when they’ve got the sleigh ready to go on Christ­mas Eve.

Be­fore we drive off we squeeze in a visit to the shops and Daisy spots Santa en­sconced on his throne; it’s the first time in a year they’ve had a chance to chat and she gives his ear a good bend­ing. Af­ter­wards, the look of dis­ap­point­ment is un­mis­tak­able. ‘‘ You know,’’ she whis­pers, ‘‘ I think Santa is ac­tu­ally too old to marry.’’

I nod sagely, but inside I’m elated, the vi­sion of a her­nia-free fu­ture glit­ter­ing be­fore me. ‘‘ Do you think you won’t need to pack as much next time?’’ I even­tu­ally ask.

Daisy gig­gles, gives me a gen­tly pity­ing look, holds my hand for a mo­ment, and heads to­wards the car.

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