Born in New Zealand and now living in Kentucky, LYDIA DAVIS and her widely traveling husband are authors of a joint autobiography, DR. TO THE ISLANDS.

Once, long ago — almost twenty years ago. when I come to think of it-I was allowed to pack my husband’s bags whenever he took a trip. Then there came the day when our airplane landed in 103 degrees of Samoan heat, and only then did I discover that I had left all the clean shirts on the dressing table two thousand miles to the rear.

After that, some very queer things happened to my husband’s luggage, climaxed by the occasion when he found himself high in the air over New York City telling himself that it was a pity that he had left the whole suitcase behind on the dressing table. This experience apparently gave him a bad fright, which, over these intervening years, seems to have resulted in an obsessive complex bolstered by an overdose of confidence. I know all this from lying in bed watching him pack his bag at 5:30 A.M. preparatory to catching a 6 A.M. plane. He does not like to pack bags alter sunset; he packed the one he left behind the night before leaving it behind.

My husband finds the container important nowadays. After seeing a colored picture in a very shiny magazine, he went to considerable expense and bought himself a two-suiter. It is made of some mysterious compound guaranteed not to dent or split, but the guarantee evidently does not consider the fairy fingers of airport redcaps; it is dented in three places and threatens to split at any moment, The man in the picture with this piece of luggage was obviously a graduate of one of the better colleges, about fifteen years younger than my husband, and much, much wealthier. (Better dressed, too.) But my husband decided that all he needed was the luggage, and he, too, would unmistakably be a junior executive.

A two-suiter is a silly piece of luggage. In addition to the one on his back, the traveler needs take no more than one suit on a trip. My husband has only two suits that, because of their Savile Row tags, he considers fit to wear. Therefore, the second coat hanger, so cunningly provided with the luggage, is permanently draped with a Robert Hall type piece of gent’s décor, a dandy piece of filling for the junior executive who wants you to think he has three suits to his name.

My husband travels a good deal, and although he is nowadays sickeningly efficient about the packing business (he takes everything he owns, just to be sure), his skill extends only one way. He leaves with all his wardrobe and returns with only part of it. At the time of my writing this, his bedroom slippers are in California, the top of his winter pajamas in Alaska, the bottom of his summer pajamas in Denmark, his favorite red knitted necktie in London (thank heavens), his best raincoat is in Greenland, and his only pair of uncracked black shoes lies forlornly in Boston. He left for the Canal Zone last week, and from the look of the outside of the two-suiter, no one would guess that my husband is what he is, an absent-minded scientist, and not what he hopes you think he is, a successful junior exec. He has filled the empty spaces with my bath towels. When I sneered at him, he said it was to stop his possessions from rattling around.

I do hope he brings all those towels home again, or, at least, if he does forget them, and other things as well, fills the empty spaces with thoughtful little gifts.