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.
With-a-Why in the hotel pool.