August 17, 2007

On the way home

Earlier this summer, at a family meeting during which we were planning our August vacation, a session which was like a cross between comedy show and a horror movie since the six people in my family have very different ideas about what constitutes a fun family vacation, With-a-Why kept saying, "Hotel! I want to stay in a hotel!"

My other kids, too, used to get thrilled about hotels when they were younger. They'd get excited about the ice machine, and they'd fight over who got to fill up the ice bucket, even though we rarely had any use for the ice. They loved hotel pools: heated water, warm and shallow and clear. And of course, there was the novelty of cable televison: dozens and dozens of different channels. I have never understood the excitement of holding a remote control and changing channels every twenty seconds, but for some reason, my kids would find it fascinating.

So on the last day of our vacation, when he checked the forecast and saw that the next morning was going to bring rain, my husband suggested we pack up the tents while they were dry and find a hotel on our way home. He'd knew With-a-Why would be excited, and at that point, the thought of a hot shower and a real bed was appealing to me as well.

I felt a bit self-conscious as my family trooped into the lobby of the hotel. I know that there are families who bring a neatly packed "hotel bag" with everything they need in one suitcase, but that is not us. We straggled in, clutching duffle bags of clothes and plastic bags full of random food. Boy in Black had a blanket over his shoulders and a guitar under his arm, while With-a-Why chose to carry an armload of stuffed animals rather than anything that might contain clean clothes and a toothbrush. It had been more than a week since any of us had had a shower. After a week of camping, all of our stuff looked – well, dirty – and we left a trail of sand and pine needles as we made our way to the elevators.

But my kids are not self-conscious in the least. When we came down to swim in the pool, they spotted the beautiful piano in the lobby. Shaggy Hair Boy, wearing his bathing suit and a wrinkled t-shirt, his uncombed hair pulled back into a ponytail, sat down at the piano and began playing. When Boy in Black emerged from the elevator, wearing the same black t-shirt he'd had on all week, his unwashed hair tied back with a bandana, he joined his brother at the piano bench, and they played several numbers together. The woman at the front desk looked over and smiled, and a man reading a newspaper in one of the chairs in the lobby, looked up in an approving sort of way.

The rest of us had the pool to ourselves. My daughter settled in a chair with a book while my husband and I went swimming with With-a-Why. After about an hour of music, the boys joined us, and we hung out together in the water until the pool closed. Then we went back upstairs, my husband and me to our own room – with a clean bathroom, dry white towels, and a bed that seemed ridiculously luxurious after a week in a tiny two-person tent – while the kids retreated to their room to play guitars, read books, and watch With-a-Why surf from channel to channel on the big television screen.

Through the water

With-a-Why in the hotel pool.


Nadine said...

I used to think hotels (or motels) were exciting as a kid, but now I find them gross and scary. Granted, I've never stayed in a super nice one. But I have stayed in one where a member of my party was propositioned by a working gal.

If my choice was that or the tent, I'm sticking with the tent.

jo(e) said...

Nadine: Yeah, I think it's really only kids who like hotels. I would almost always prefer a tent.

When my kids were little, we'd sometimes stay in a hotel en route to someplace, and trying to keep them entertained in a tiny boring room used to drive me crazy, even though they were always so excited and happy they'd be bouncing off the walls.

KLee said...

I'm a hotel girl all the way. I just don't like being hot and dirty. I go camping with the Girl Scouts, and did so with my family often as a kid, and I preferred hotels both then and now. I also prefer pools. Guess I'll be in trouble if I ever get stranded in the wilderness, huh? :)

kathy a. said...

piano photos! [but you probably don't have any....] that is a great image, the boys settling down to a piano, loving that part of civilization and making everyone else smile.

my kids loved hotels, too -- if only for the cable TV, and the bunching up of us together in a clean and strange place.

we also liked camping, but it has been a while since we did that as a family. maybe next year. the extended family is trying for a get-together near yosemite...

Yankee T said...

I like camping AND hotels. Especially luxury hotels, of which in my line of business I have had my fair share.

With-A-Why and the stuffed animals is a great image.

kathy a. said...

i should mention that i was 17 before i camped anyplace that wasn't someone's backyard, and have insisted on amenities when our family camped. the first time i ever peed outdoors without facilities, i was 47 years old. and my socks didn't get wet, yay!

i used to dream that i'd live well, stranded on a desert island. now i know better; i know i can manage not peeing on my socks.

S. said...

This reminded me so much of a bunch of thru-hikers walking or hitching into a trail town with unwieldy packs on. And oh yes, the stink of a week of hiking!

I love the crazy-unreal sense of civilization that seems like it has been distilled into the hotel room you find after camping: the soap wrapped in paper! The extra bed! The solid walls!

You don't appreciate it as much without the tent first.

kabbage said...

How much did the color of the pool water change, as you all slowly sloughed off a week's worth of dirt and pine needles?

We didn't camp when I was a kid -- my mom thought taking care of 6 kids was enough of a hassle with stove and rooms to separate any squabblers. Instead we drove 2 states to see my mother's family. The I-70 reststops had latrine-style restrooms, though, which we considered roughing it. Little skinny kid-butt faced with a taller-than-average toilet seat and a cold, smelly breeze wafting up on a hot August day with my dad honking the horn and threatening to leave any kid who wasn't visibly en route back to the car. Of course we had more girls than boys, further slowing things. That was scary enough!

elswhere said...

We went camping once--once!--during my childhood/adolescence, and I only remember staying in a hotel maybe twice. Both options seemed like the ultimate in excitement and glamour, and I still feel that way about them now that I get to do both pretty regularly.

There's a budget hotel in Vancouver, with a basin in the room and a bath down the hall, that my daughter loves so much that we've considered booking it for a night in the off-season this winter even after we move, just for a treat. No pool, though.

KLee said...

Piggybacking on Elsewhere's comment about the "budget hotel" in Vancouver -- at the other extreme end of the continent, in St. Augustine, Florida; there's a wonderful little hostel called The Pirate Haus that has both private rooms and dorm-style rooms. We stayed there a year ago St. Patrick's Day weekend and had a fabulous time.

Some of the rooms share bathroom facilites there, but we lucked into a room with its own. It was cheap, clean, and Conrad (the owner) fed us all we could eat "piece of eight" silver dollar pancakes in the mornings. It was also right smack dab in the historic district. I highly suggest it to anyone making a trip to St. Augustine.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

When I was six or seven, my family went on vacation to a hotel. It was a holiday inn in Indiana somewhere; it had an indoor/outdoor pool and a put-put golf course (indoors) and a huge playstructure (indoors). It was dreamy!

Lilian said...

I don't mind hotels, the traveling is what matters for me :) I think in my entire childhood I stayed at a hotel maybe twice.

Then when I was a teenager a couple more times with my parents. It was only when I first came to the U.S. in 1993 that I got to stay in motels (we'd find a cheap one where they didn't ask how many people were in our party and sleep, all 7 of us, my in-laws, their 4 sons and I, in one room. I slept on the floor in one of those foam mattress toppers and the two younger boys slept on the box spring.

My young sons ADORE hotel stays, obviously :) and I get excited for them even though now I think hotels are very yucky places... I have yet to camp with them. :( We camped for a whole month in Europe in 2000 and that was AWESOME.

Oh yeah, my parents were campers... but this comment is already too long ;)

Queen of West Procrastination said...

You know, there's still a part of me that feels childishly excited the second I smell a hotel room. The ice buckets and cable TV and tiny bottles of shampoo (even though they're normally scented and I can't use them) thrill me far too much.

It helps that, as a child, we only stayed in hotels enroute to somewhere exciting.

OTRgirl said...

Being married to a hard-core backpacker, I get very happy to stay in a hotel!

I've been enjoying your vacation posts and photos. I can't believe how big your youngest is.

landismom said...

It's funny, my daughter asked me a week ago why we never go camping--I told her a version of the truth, which is that when you grow up camping with a father who's an alcoholic, lots of your camping trips end with things like having your tent slide downhill in a middle-of-the-night rainstorm. Camping just isn't that fun for me.

I told her we'll probably go camping once when her brother is older--but it's not going to be a regular feature of their childhood by any means.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

I love your posts, they're so homey and comforting and familiar and loving.

Wish piano boy had someone to play duets with, piano 4-hands.

Piano Boy and I stayed in a motel together when I took him up to Blue lake fine arts camp and he sat with wi-fi on his lap and remote in hand--for HOURS AND HOURS.

I, on the other hand, explored the new town, found an old tannery being destroyed and explored that--I was torn down the next day.

I loved it--found some kids inside piano boys age exploring, like me.