I am trying to remind myself that back in the day, when I was a kid, going on a road trip, my parents were forced to search for hotels in a flimsy AAA travel magazine. I recall scrolling for at least three diamonds, tanned fingers brushing against the cheap newsprint, bare legs stuck to the olive green scratchy seats of my Grandma’s Oldsmobile Cutlass . . .
I suppose I should not complain that in today’s world I have every hotel that ever existed at my fingerprints. I can see photos and reviews and even traveler photos where people post things like bed stains and dirty socks. Still, I am gonna complain. I have had it.
Here is the thing, America. Am I the only woman out there that has FOUR CHILDREN? WHY MUST I PUNCH THEIR AGES IN JUST TO FIND OUT WHAT YOUR RATE IS? DO YOU KNOW HOW IRRITATING IT IS TO KEEP PUNCHING IN 2, 12, 13, 17 OVER AND OVER AGAIN JUST SO YOU CAN REPLY “Sorry, that number is too large for our search. Please call 1-800-I-HATE-MOTHERS for assistance.”
Some places will only let me pursue a search with three kids in mind. Sophie’s choice. WHO WANTS TO STAY HOME? Hey, and Hyatt House, do you really think a suite is one bed and a pullout? Who gets the springy pullout? Grandpa?
I do not understand why there cannot be an affordable hotel chain that accommodates larger families. I don’t care if the kids sleep in a hammock attached to the ceiling as long as I do not have to pull out some nasty old couch that looks like it was purchased at a church rummage sale. Here is what I want. Listen up, Donald Trump and the Hilton’s, ’cause I am about to make you even richer:
I want one room. One bathroom is fine. We are used to that. Just give me about four thousand towels. Please give us three queen size beds or ample space to sleep six. I do not care how this is done, except that I do not want to have to pull out a couch or order a cot. We need a pool. We need free breakfast. Free parking. No smoking anywhere, please, and I DO NOT WANT TO PAY OVER $150 a night. I am not on a honeymoon. I am not here for a romantic getaway. I am here with FOUR kids. More than anything else I want to be able to search for this room on the world wide fucking web with ease and pleasure. Thank you.
It is midnight and at this very moment I am feeling two things (aside from my total hatred of all things Expedia, Orbitz, and Trip Advisor):
1. I am insanely envious of people who don’t have to worry about money (envious and full of a seething “FUCK YOU”).
2. I cannot sleep because I am creating hotel rooms inside my head. Hotels that instead of saying “no one under fourteen is welcome,” say “families of four or less can suck it.”
One hotel in Boulder actually wrote that on their website: “no one under fourteen is welcome.” Isn’t there a nicer way of saying that? Though I am considering putting a similar phrase on our bathroom door at home (yup, we only have one) . . . something like, I am in here right now and no one else in the universe is welcome.”
A few times I made the mistake of stumbling on a hotel and getting all excited. The rooms were spacious, the decor was lovely and contemporary . . . and then I realized that I clicked the wrong icon and that I was looking at a room that was $300 a night. There is this huge discrepancy between la-dee-dah hotels and family hotels and I am not sure why. I have stayed at both kinds and the energy shift is just massive. It’s like the difference between walking into K-Mart and Bloomingdales. Like, “if you have kids, you don’t deserve luxury.”
Yet with shopping, there are all these in between places: Gap, Banana Republic, right? I want the Banana Republic of hotels. Right now my choices are kind of between those boutiques in NYC that you need an appointment to get into vs. 7/11. Sigh.
I have honestly been looking at hotel rooms and vacation rentals by owner for the last nine hours. Nine. Gun to head. It is perhaps only seven hours if you count all the minutes I lost chasing Quinn to the bathroom. Poor Q has had the worst stomach virus for the last few days and it just doesn’t seem fair to do to a kid who is newly potty trained. I am so sick of cleaning up poop that at this point I am just throwing the underpants out. I washed the first twelve pair. That is my limit.
I am not sure where the summer is going to. So busy and so fast and so warm. Lizzie is away at volleyball camp, sleeping in a blazing hot shoebox of a ninth floor dorm room. William started modeling (perhaps he can pay for the hotel . . . sweet Jesus, that is a whole new post because yesterday he made more in thirty minutes than I make in a full day of teaching and wtf does that say about our society) . . . Luke is two weeks into a college course at MIAD. He is learning so much. After the third day he said, “No offense, Mom, but I have already learned so much more than I have ever learned in your classes.” He doesn’t quite get that there are eight kids and two teachers in his class and the session is nine hours long, but it’s okay. No offense taken.
The best thing about this summer is that the older kids are kind of starting to come into themselves somehow, distinguish themselves from one another. I know that one of the real reasons that we cannot really afford this trip is because we afford the kids instead. We are trying, like I think most parents try, to give them an “upgrade,” to make sure their lives are full of opportunity.
The cost of that to us is that we live in a tiny, falling apart house, and going on vacation doesn’t really happen much. Recently, a classmate of William’s mom told me, “When you have a child, the YOU that you know disappears for a really long time.”
I am not sure that is true, but I do know that when I walked away from Lizzie’s dorm room, where she gave me a giddy hug goodbye and later texted, “This is so much fun! We are blasting music and eating pizza and I can’t wait to go to college” . . . when I walked away from that I had a really sudden realization that one day it all boils back down to me again. Only me.
I have been thinking a lot about my Grandma Lois lately. I guess because Quinn is just at such a cute age and it just makes me really miss her. I find myself wanting him to know her, wanting her to delight in him that way she did William. Plus, planning a trip to Colorado is something I always did with her. I used to sit in the front seat, in the middle (before things like seat belts and airbags were laws) and we played Old Maid, as my dad drove. She had five kids. She lived this chaos and she would tell anyone who listened that they were her favorite years.
I don’t think she ever even once took those five kids to a hotel. They grew up in a three bedroom, one bathroom house. There should have been a hotel for them . . . a place that catered to that then, too. A place where she could breathe and let them explore a new town while she imagined a bigger world. Because in the end, my grandma was alone most of the time. She spent a long time dying, thinking it all over, before she let go.
I wonder, as she sat there, two summers ago, her blue eyes faded, her skin thin, what she thought about most. I wonder if I will look back on this summer and remember my frustration with Priceline and Hotwire, or if I will remember the way Quinn jumps off the pool ladder with complete trust and love into his father’s waiting arms. Will I resent not having the money to travel or will I appreciate the stories that come from living in cramped quarters with the loves of my life?
I honestly don’t know the answer to that, only the answer that I hope it is. It’s kind of like this vacation. It might be a complete stress ball of a disaster or it might be magic. I guess I’ll err on the side of hope and tonight, when I finally sleep, I will dream of spacious hotels that have the word WELCOME written all over them. I know there is space for the kids. It’s me who needs a room.