Wade and his pal Trish spend a year planning to look fabulous on vacation, only to end up arriving without a thing for her to wear.
The four of us stood in silence as the luggage carousel in Naples kept spinning and spinning. There was nothing left on it, and there seemed to be nothing else coming. The rest of the passengers on our flight had already claimed their bags and departed. We had been in Italy less than an hour, and already it seemed our vacation was doomed.
“You can wear my bra,” Gary joked to our dear friend Trish, whose suitcase had failed to materialize.
She laughed — already handling it better than I would have, though we could see her eyes welling with tears.
Trish and her husband Steve made their way to file a missing luggage report, while Gary and I coralled the bags that had actually made it.
The four of us had been planning this trip for over a year — including what we would wear. We were going to Capri, for Heaven’s sake, where people dressed as if every night was an awards show red carpet. We had even shopped together, buying complementary scarves, pink slacks and new shoes.
Trish was a former pageant queen and Wilhelmina model. Fashion was her passion, and when she traveled, she took pride in looking her best. The only bag of hers that made it to Italy was her carry-on, which (in an ironic twist of fate) she’d stuffed with Barbie dolls and outfits for them.
Our attempt to remedy the situation was to spend the first day shopping with Trish. We started at high-end shops, but it seemed silly to spend on Gucci when it seemed likely the designer contents of her own luggage would eventually turn up. We sought advice from locals, who suggested we head to the non-touristy side of town. There, Trish bought some inexpensive colorful cover-ups, a few pretty wraps and a flowy sundress.
The next day of our once-in-a-lifetime vacation was spent buying Trish a bra. It took us four hours of trying to convert sizes and communicate with the male shop owner, who not only spoke no English but was also utterly shocked when Gary dared to follow Trish into the changing room to help her strap on her selections and offer his opinion.
That evening, we had plans to dine at an upscale restaurant. As Trish’s luggage still had yet to arrive, she reluctantly wore her new sundress. As the sun set, we watched the matriarch of the family who owned the restaurant make our pasta by hand. We drank wine. The family gave us homemade limoncello, and as we walked home, Trish was in a buzzy state of relaxation, finally not thinking of her lost luggage — that is, until we walked by a group of young women drinking wine at an outdoor bar. They were dressed to the nines in the edgiest of fashions, and they giggled and pointed as we passed.
“Are they laughing at us?” Trish asked.
“Ignore them,” I said. But she couldn’t.
“Can I help you?” she snapped.
The women looked at Trish’s dress and then around the plaza. We suddenly realized that 20 women seemed to be wearing the exact same dress.
“It’s just — a schmatta!” Trish exasperatedly tried to explain, tugging on her dress.
I started to laugh. Then Trish started to laugh. Soon even the girls seemed to understand.
The next day, we decided to have some fun with someone who’s best looks had made it across the ocean: Barbie. Gary and Trish dressed up the dolls, and we photographed them all over Capri. “They have better clothes than I do,” Trish quipped.
“It’s just a schmatta!” I yelled, grabbing Barbie’s cape.
The next day — as though we had finally managed to exorcise our fashion demons — Trish’s luggage finally appeared.
We got dressed up and went to eat at a restaurant with spectacular food and views that took our breath away. And it seemed like everyone — waiters, diners, strangers on the street — had a compliment for Trish that night.
“Your dress is so beautiful!”
“Where did you get your shoes?”
“Is that the new Kate Spade bag?”
Without warning, Trish’s eyes filled with tears and her voice became choked with emotion. “Despite everything, this has been one of the best trips of my life — thanks to all of you,” she said, raising her glass. “Cheers to the dearest friends and best husband anyone could ask for.”
We laughed all night and had a waiter take a picture of us with the sea shimmering in the background. “This is a keeper,” I said ,studying our happy faces in the photo — not paying a lick of attention to a thing we were wearing, realizing the key to great travel isn’t what you pack: it’s who you bring.
Wade’s latest novels as Viola Shipman is The Recipe Box, out this March. Visit waderouse.com.to learn more about all his work.
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Last modified: October 15, 2018