Week 46: 52 Ancestor 52 Week Blog: I Pack my Suitcase with…

Week 46: November 15, 2014

 I Pack my Suitcase with…

yellow suitcase

The yellow suitcase!

I’ll never forget the time my son and I landed at JFK with over 6 pieces of luggage – and just the two of us! He never grumbled as we made our way to the shuttle van, laughing all the way as we struggled to carry them all. The drivers in New York never complained about our weighty luggage, but the early morning shuttle driver in Georgia taking us to the airport always grumbled “what are you trying to do bring it all home with you” he’d say. We never liked seeing that “one” very overweight grumpy driver at 6 a.m. He never was without a comment, and I bet he doesn’t miss me either!

Just as the title of this story says, I did pretty much pack my suitcase with everything. Remember the old game, “I Pack my Suitcase” that you played as a child? For some reason I feel compelled to bring some of my South back home with me every year – and I still do today.

Holcombs Sign

Holcomb’s Bar-B-Q

Until I finally learned how to make Bar-B-Q sauce with Mama’s help of devising a recipe, I lugged three gallons of Holcomb’s special sauce home every year on the plane. The legal limit today of carrying liquid on-board is 4 oz! I would surely be arrested today if I tried to sneak that on! Recently I learned from the TSA that you’re allowed to bring frozen food on-board – as much as you want. I was excited to learn that and quickly packed my carry-on suitcase full of frozen BBQ and Brunswick Stew. I never breathe easy until I am past security; yes they always open it and probably think I’m crazy. I don’t care what they think, just as long as my BBQ makes it to the plane.

Even though I already have a yard full of mama’s flowers, I still bring plants home from her garden – I think she expects me to and always has flowers waiting for me to pack. She rooted hydrangeas for my daughter to bring home this year. I’ve never seen anyone with a green thumb like hers; she just sticks a root in the ground and presto, roots appear. Of course there’s a drawback to going anywhere with someone with a green thumb – everywhere we go she pinches off a piece of whatever she sees and takes a liking to. Sometimes I just look the other way and keep going – just waiting for the flower police to appear!

We now usually ship through the post office as the airlines are stricter and they x-ray everything that even goes under the plan. I’m not in the gardening mode as I once was, but I still enjoy when hubby drags out my treasured “Ola” lily and Elephant Ear plants.  I keep them in pots inside as they are more tropical and cannot weather through our winters outside.


The Ola Lily at Mama’s house

I recently discovered that my Ola lily is from the Crinum lily family and considered an heirloom Southern lily. They can only be bought on-line at special nurseries that continue to grow and reproduce them; you’ll never find them in local nurseries. In searching online I’ve discovered it’s actually called the milk and wine or confederate lily.

Driving around Georgia, you’ll see the Ola Lily occasionally, but usually only out in the country. We mostly see them around Siloam, and that’s where mama’s plants came from. It’s definitely one of the “pass along plants” – that you only have because someone has shared one with you from their garden. When someone shares a plant with you, feel truly honored – you’ll remember that person always when the plant blooms. I think of my grandmother Ola (McKinley) every time I look at my lily when it blooms. I even named it Ola, after her, because no one knew the name of the plant years ago, and I still call it my Ola Lily.


My favorite Tara House

My suitcases now come home packed with other Georgia treasures such as – bags of Georgia red clay soil scooped up from Lumpkin and Greene County, bricks from the home of Granddaddy Bryan and Granddaddy McKinley’s fallen chimneys, bricks that once held up the southern porch of my favorite Tara house – cuttings of country pink roses from the yard of my Civil War 4th-great grandfather’s log cabin across from Cane Creek in Lumpkin County, cast iron frying pans that belonged to my grandmother Ola and my mother. One year I even brought home a 14-inch cast iron frying pan I bought in an antique store; it arrived safe and sound!

It’s not easy leaving my mother’s house with light suitcases – no matter how hard we try. We shop in all our favorite antique stores there and can’t resist bringing home those Southern finds. You just always see something there that you know you will not find in Connecticut, and it must come with you.


Mama fussing around in her garden!

Besides bringing home antiques, there are other food things that I must find room for in my suitcase. Boxes of Luzianne Tea – like I can’t buy tea bags at home. Bags of green peanuts is always a must – have to make boiled peanuts upon returning home. White Lilly flour is another must have every year – and that comes in 5-pound bags – and there are often two or three of those packed somewhere! I just can’t make my biscuits without that flour – it’s always a must!

And do you know how hard it is to carry loaves of Sunbeam BBQ bread through the airport without squishing it? One man stopped to ask me why I was carrying that bread – he said he was just curious as to why. It’s another staple I can’t buy here. I contacted Sunbeam about it – their answer was  -no one would buy it here. How do they know, as they don’t even try. And it’s always one of those “asked for things” from my son when he doesn’t come.

BLOG-full-suitcase original


From one visit to the next, mama collects things – things that “she” thinks we might want – and expects us to bring them ‘all’ home – in our suitcases. The night before we leave mama’s we begin playing the game of – I pack my suitcase with….  We pack, unpack, repack – weigh the suitcases and start asking who has room in theirs, for what is not fitting in yours! Then after our suitcases are packed to the brim, here comes mama with more things – telling us to just – stick them somewhere….

On one trip, she had over fourteen baby dresses and books for me to bring home for the granddaughters and when I didn’t pack all the books, she seemed disappointed. Granted the dresses didn’t weigh much, but they still took up room.

On the last night I usually drag out the shopping bags for those last, hard-to-fit breakables that never make it into my suitcase. I carry them nonchalantly, pretending I just bought them at the airport. So far, my extra carry-on bags have not been discovered. When I tell you our bags are filled to every nook and cranny – believe me!

So you can see, besides packing my suitcase with Ancestor memories, I also include other strange items like flour, peanuts, bricks, plants, BBQ, Brunswick Stew, bread, peach pickles, cast iron pans and whatever goodies I found in the antique stores and hiding around mama’s house; Lots of  goodies always hiding there!

 “So, what do you pack in your suitcase?”

About Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

My blog is at: https://everyonehasafamilystorytotell.wordpress.com/
This entry was posted in 52 Ancestor Stories and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Week 46: 52 Ancestor 52 Week Blog: I Pack my Suitcase with…

  1. Karen says:

    I remember the game “I pack my suitcase” from my own childhood. I can’t remember that we ever stuffed plants in it, but cars or airplanes! Plants are definitely much better!

  2. I love this story! It tells me so much about your family I never knew before. I hadn’t even realized just how much a Southerner you are! I too have a beautiful Crinum lily! Did you know they can and often do live a hundred years!? And of course your Barbecue and Brunswick stew concerns — I’m right with you! There was a time we would only use Carolina Treat Barbeque Sauce! Nowadays, Max cooks the pork roast in the crock pot then shreds it and flavors it. I’ll send you the recipe!

  3. Helen I’d love your family recipe for sauce – thanks for stopping by and sharing some of your Southern food memories.

  4. Lyn Smith says:

    This one story brings back the memories when Mama Grace McKinley would pack Southern things to send to my sister, Mary, who had married a guy from Ohio. Certain foods we enjoy could not be found in Ohio. Actually, could not be found in several places north of Tennessee. I would go shopping with Mama and we’d buy extra bags of grits and packages of Stricklin (fatback meat) and a couple of other things. Papa would get the packing materials so these items could be mailed to my sister in Ohio.

    I went to visit my sister one year and Mama sent me with a load of all these foods for my sister. This was done for years until my sister moved back to Georgia. There is also another story about when our brother visited our sister and was astounded they didn’t serve grits, didn’t even know what they were.

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