Every time I announce a visit to my parents, I will get one or more lists of "encargos" - basically a wish list of things they want to bring with me. I live in the US and they don't, so they always want me to bring things that are hard for them to find, or ridiculously expensive if available. Over the years, that list has included a hodgepodge of items - from QTips to foot powder, kitchen gadgets, foods, clothes, water filtration systems, and very memorably, a pair of men's size 14 camouflage rain boots (memorable both because they were huge and ultimately never worn, and because when customs officials took a look at them and a matching jacket in my bag, warily and suspiciously asked if I was in the military.)
Sometimes the list of items is so long I have to bring 2 suitcases where I would normally take one. My father is a tall guy, and I've often been tasked with taking him clothes to refresh his wardrobe, since finding clothes his size can be a challenge. Let me tell you, 2 pairs of shoes for my father is basically a full suitcase. Throw in a few shirts and pants, and I definitely have to put anything I plan on wearing during my visit in a separate bag.
This past weekend I had to go shopping for the last few things on the latest wish list, and I was struck by how random the things I had to take with me was: basket-style coffee filters, men's underwear, a specific multivitamin, poultry seasoning, a DVD of a TV show's latest season, and a stand mixer bowl. Thankfully, the list is relatively short this time because family was just in the US visiting about a month ago.
Anyone who has family who lives in a different country knows all about having to serve as a mule - I'm sorry, let's say courier instead. (Although don't couriers get paid for their services?) It's a fact of life when you have family living in different countries - you long for items that are hard to get.
My favorite courier story was actually the time I naively offered to make the wedding cake for one of my cousins. She was basically having a destination wedding, and thought the expense of a cake was ridiculous, so I offered to make one - you can't not have cake at a wedding! She took me up on my offer - so I basically had to pack a mixer, bowls, pans, various kitchen gadgets and quite a few of the ingredients in my suitcase, then start panicking about how the hell I was going to do it. Many of us were all staying in the same apartment, and I remember everyone laughed when I opened my suitcase, since it was basically a change of clothes, baking supplies, and makeup. (I ended up serving as the bride's makeup artist too. I loved that part.) Thankfully, my uncle served as the other courier for this cake, since he hand carried some beautiful sugar flowers that really made my simple cake look somewhat matrimonial. The bride and groom liked the cake, so the combined efforts of two couriers coming from two different countries was a success.
The courier stories I remember less fondly usually involve non family members. Anyone else get saddled with a duffel bag full of letters from a group of American nuns living abroad that they requested you transport and mail from the 'states? Have you had to go on wild goose chases to 2 different states to track down that one extra special cake mold someone just had to have, and would be heartbroken if you couldn't find it? (You're a good courier, so you did in fact eventually find it.) No? Just me?
I'm with my family now, and I know they always appreciate my efforts as a courier, so it makes it all worth it when they give me a hug and say thanks.