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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Luggage (08/15/05)

TITLE: Packing for College
By Shannah Hogue


The suitcase was empty on the floor. The bed was full of everything she needed to get into the zippered black bag. She stood in the closet doorway, eying the mess. She had repacked three times since starting the project an hour before. And she was trying to forget about the crates waiting downstairs.
Maybe I just won’t go. I could get into Maggie’s school. Why did I pick a school so far away? For the umpteenth time, her eyes filled with tears.
There was a light knock on the door. Abby quickly wiped her eyes.
“How’s it going?” Maggie took in the scene with a quick glance from the floor to the bed to the closet.
“Oh, it’s coming.” Abby gestured at the empty suitcase. “Can’t you see how fast I’ve been working?”
Maggie grinned at her sister. “You know it doesn’t all have to go in one suitcase, right?”
When Maggie grinned, her eyes got all squinty and her dimples appeared. I’m going to miss that grin. Abby again swallowed the sudden lump in her throat and smiled weakly.
“I just can’t seem to…you know…get it going.”
“Yep, I do. Starting college was one of the hardest things I ever did.” Maggie stepped over the suitcase and sat down on the bed. “You’ll love college, Ab. And everyone is scared to go away. I’m barely further along than you are, and I’ve done this once.”
“You’re not packed?”
“No. Why do you think I’m in here?” Maggie grinned again.
“I just don’t feel ready for this. Maybe I shouldn’t go this year.”
Maggie’s lips puckered like they always did when she was thinking. Abby waited.
“Well,” Maggie paused, “you don’t have to go. That’s your choice. But truthfully, Abby, that suitcase is your doorway to a whole new world. You won’t regret filling it.”
“I know.” Abby half-shrugged.
“The question is: what are filling it with?”
“Um…clothes, deodorant, my toothbrush, stuff I’ll need.” Abby gestured at the bed.
“Right. But Abby, you don’t seem to be getting much of that sort of packing done. And I think that’s because the suitcase is too full to begin with.”
Abby glanced at the totally bare suitcase. “Um…that bag?”
“Abby, I’m not talking about your stuff. I’m talking about fear. That bag is too full of your fears for you to get anything else into it.”
Abby didn’t respond. After a moment, Maggie stood. “Well, I suppose I should get back to my own packing, huh?” She grinned and headed for the door.
Abby moved towards the open suitcase and sat down beside it. Full of fear. Maggie was right. Silently she began to pray. God, I’m scared. But you said I can trust you and not be afraid. Help me empty this suitcase of fear. And help me to figure out what to fill it with instead.
She looked around her room. Every trinket and picture told a story of the people and events that made her laugh, reminded her that she was loved, helped her through tough times.
“That’s it!” Inspired, Abby gathered some of her photos. Dumping them beside the suitcase, she found her neon index cards and a pen. Then grabbing her bible, she quickly she filled a number of the index cards with her favorite verses and placed them next to her pictures. .
She grabbed a stack of jeans and dropped them into the suitcase. Kneeling, she slipped a card between two pairs, reading the verse as she did. “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” Between two other pairs, she placed a picture of her family building a sandcastle during their last vacation. It was one of her favorite photos.
Grabbing pile after pile, she filled the case, sprinkling each pile with photos and verses, reminding herself repeatedly of the God, the love, the blessings that she was taking with her to college. Gradually, the suitcase got fuller, and Abby’s fears got smaller.
Then, suddenly, she was done. She flipped the suitcase closed and zipped and locked it. She grabbed the pile of pictures and cards from the floor and opened the door.
“Hey, Mom? Do you have any pictures that I can have? I need to pack my crates.”

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This article has been read 538 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Gabrielle Morgan08/22/05
A good message in a well written piece. A reminder of what is really important. Thanks, I enjoyed reading this.
Ryan Barnhart08/23/05
Great outlook on a tough and exciting day for all of us. Good story.
Rita Garcia08/23/05
Well written, love the ending. Blessings, Rita
Tisha Martin 08/25/05
Coming from a new student soon to be off to college, this was very encouraging! I loved the message, and the story flowed well. Great job!
Jan Ackerson 08/26/05
Good writing, I can see this in a teen magazine. Help your readers out by putting spaces between paragraphs.