Getting here with even the bare minimum was a trial. Just when we consideredourselves fully prepared and were fixing to depart, lo and behold, we learned that the Pan American airline would only allow forty-four pounds to be carried across the ocean. Forty-four pounds of luggage, per person, and not one iota more. Why, we were dismayed by this bad news! Who'd have thought there would be limits on modern jet-age transport? When we added up all our forty-four pounds together including Ruth May's--luckily she counted as a whole person even though she's small--we were sixty-one pounds over. Father surveyed our despair as if he'd expected it all along, and left it up to wife and daughters to sort out, suggesting only that we consider the lilies of the field which have no need of a hand mirror nor aspirin tablets.
"I reckon the lilies need Bibles, though, and his darn old latrine spade," Rachel muttered, as her beloved toiletry items got pitched out of the suitcase one by one. Rachel never does grasp scripture all that well.
But considering the lilies as we might, our trimming back got us nowhere close to the sixty-one pounds, even with Rachel's beauty aids. We were nearly stumped. And then, hallelujah! At the last possible moment, saved. Through an oversight (or else probably, if you think about it, just plain politeness), they don't weigh the passengers. The Southern Baptist Mission League gave us this hint, without coming right out and telling us to flout the law of the Forty-four Pounds, and from there we made our plan. We struck out for Africa carrying all our excess baggage on our bodies, under our clothes. Also, we had clothes under our clothes. My sisters and I left home wearing six pairs of underdrawers, two half-slips and camisoles; several dresses one on top of the other, with pedal pushers underneath; and outside of everything an all-weather coat. (The encyclopedia advised us to count on rain). The other goods, tools, cake mix boxes and so forth were tucked out of sight in our pockets and under our waistbands, surrounding us in a clanking armor.
We wore our best dresses on the outside to make a good impression. Rachel wore her green linen Easter suit she was so vain of, and her long whitish hair pulled off her forehead with a wide pink elastic hairband. Rachel is fifteen--or as she would put it, going on sixteen--and cares for naught but appearances. Her full Christian name is Rachel Rebeccah, so she feels free to take after Rebekah the virgin at the well, who is said in Genesis to be "a damsel most fair" and was offered marriage presents of golden earbobs right off the bat, when Abraham's servant spied her fetching up the water. (Since she's my elder by one year, she claims no relation to the Bible's poor Rachel, Leah's younger sister, who had to wait all those years to get married.) Sitting next to me on the plane, she kept batting her white rabbit eyelashes and adjusting her bright pink hairband, trying to get me to notice she had secretly painted her fingernails bubble-gum pink to match. I glanced over at Father, who had the other window seat at the opposite end of our entire row of Prices. The sun was a blood-red ball hovering outside his window, inflaming his eyes as he kept up a lookout for Africa on the horizon. It was just lucky for Rachel he had so much else weighing on his mind. She'd been thrashed with the strap for nail polish, even at her age. But that is Rachel to a T, trying to work in just one last sin before leaving civilization. Rachel is worldly and tiresome in my opinion, so I stared out the window where the view was better. Father feels makeup and nail polish are warning signals of prostitution, the same as pierced ears.