Oct 25, 2022 • 9M

Suitcase of Milk

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Tegan and Sara correspond about art, music, life and process
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As I embark on my first tour as a new parent, I’ve been thinking a lot about suitcases. Specifically, the volume of stuff I've spent most of my adult life carrying around in suitcases on tour. 

Dad gave us our first piece of luggage for Christmas in 1990. It was a muted red and had a simple black interior. Plenty big enough for us to share, but when packed, it was too heavy for us to lift on our own. It was similar to the ones that arrived with our American relatives when they visited Canada every other summer; heavy, overstuffed bags carried by our uncle’s into Grandma’s house, where the contents spilled out like guts onto the floor in the spare bedroom. 

We took our first trip with our red suitcase to Georgia and Florida in the summer of ‘91. Though the contents of the luggage was our own, the bag's ownership and responsibility resided with our parents. We treated it with respect, and at the end of our vacation, meticulously refolded our clothes, sliding newly purchased merchandise from Disney World and touristy gift shops into the corners. The luggage gathered dust until Christmas ‘96, when we returned to Georgia as teenagers. On that trip we packed light, filling it with raver clothing we bought at the boutique stores in downtown Atlanta.

Tegan in Florida, showing off all the stuffed animals that we carefully packed away in our red suitcase

After high school, it was clear that the suitcase was not at all suitable for teenagers embarking on a career in the music industry. We purchased large backpacks from Mountain Equipment Co-op and rolled our clothes into tight balls deep inside. If it didn’t fit on our backs, or in our guitar cases, it wasn’t important enough to bring along. 

In our early twenties, after years of negotiating with airlines about baggage overages, we began to file multiple guitar cases and duffle bags of personal clothing into oversized hockey bags to reduce the number of pieces we checked onto flights. We carried a scale to weigh the contents and when the zippers bulged, we shipped boxes of books and CDs back across the border. At the end of tours, the taxi drivers at Montreal’s Trudeau airport were incensed by the mound of bags I stuffed into their trunks. At home, the perilous climb up three flights of narrow stairs with my hulking luggage was a nightmare that permeated my unconscious mind. 

The success of later albums meant a more refined process of shipping and storing our touring gear in a public storage unit in Vancouver. For the first time, I began traveling with only my personal belongings. No more hockey bags or road cases under my bed and in coat closets at home. We upgraded to sports bags sold in skate and snowboard shops. The body of the suitcase was like a black shell invulnerable to the violence of baggage handlers and the constant loading and unloading from inside the filthy bay of our tour bus. These bags were as unkillable as cockroaches. Eventually everyone in the touring party transitioned and we moved through airports and hotel lobby’s like a fleet of athletes. 

My favourite suitcase, photographed today, and unkillable since 2009

After purchasing wardrobe cases for our Sainthood tour in 2009, I further reduced my luggage to a sleek, lightweight suitcase that spun effortlessly on magic wheels and was capable of charging my cell phone. Before the pandemic hit, I was traveling with only carry-on luggage.

A few weeks ago, Stacy and I flew on an airplane with Sid for the first time.

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