If military families are experts at anything, it is packing.

In addition to loading up our belongings every couple of years in order to move, most of us must travel if we want to spend holidays with our own moms and dads.

Every time I begin to pack for our family, I remind myself that my mom and mother-in-law have washers and dryers. Somehow, that basic information has slipped my mind in the past and I have wound up packing a week’s worth of underwear and socks for all three boys, just to cover a long weekend.

Experience has taught me which of them is likely to forget what, but they seem to come up with a new way to test me on every journey.

I thought I had done a better-than-average packing job as we headed north on I-95 to spend Memorial Day weekend with Ron’s parents.

We were more than halfway to their house in Delaware when Ron stopped to satisfy some sort of fishing need at a tackle store. He and Tommy disappeared inside while Jimmy and I planned our attack on the Wendy’s across the parking lot.

But just as we started to climb out of the car, Ronnie said, "I don’t have any shoes."

"What? Are they in your suitcase?" I asked. "I’ll get them."

"I forgot them," he said.

Ronnie was sitting there with his favorite blanket wrapped around his feet and nothing but socks on underneath.

Jimmy and I looked at each other and burst out laughing. Ron and Tommy did the same thing when they returned to the car.

It was by far the funniest thing any one of us has ever forgotten.

Looking back, I can easily see how Ronnie’s shoes were left at home in all the confusion of getting our family packed and on the road.

Early that morning, I had packed Ronnie’s clothes while he gathered the "really important stuff." Fuzzy animals and video games were spread out all over the living room floor where my youngest son sat, trying to decide how much would fit into his little suitcase.

Ron, from his recliner, kept telling him to hurry up.

Tommy, in the meantime, was gathering up his clothes and putting them on the wrong bed. The right bed, in this case, was the one in the master bedroom, meaning only the clothes on Tommy’s back went with us to Delaware.

While Ron and Ronnie battled wills over how long it was taking my youngest son to pack, Glory leaped and barked among us. She knew all those suitcases going out the door meant a family trip was about to happen.

The only person not making lots of noise that morning was Jimmy. That’s because we waited until the last minute to wake up the one member of the family most likely to get up on the wrong side of the bed.

I coaxed my teenager out of bed just early enough to get a bowl of cereal in his stomach before we hit the road. That was still enough time for him to replace the clothes I had chosen for him with his favorite ragged jeans and worn-out T-shirts.

Shoeless Ronnie, Raggedy Jimmy and Tommy-with-the-clothes-on-his-back piled into the Suburban and managed to keep their fighting to a minimum for our two-hour drive.

Thanks to Ronnie, we already had a story to tell by the time we arrived.

Pam Zich has moved eight times in 17 years of marriage to her Marine Corps husband. E-mail her at or find the Zichs online at

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