I was only two months shy of 20 when my daughter was born. By the time she was three I was separated and headed for divorce. It was fine by me though. My wedding reception had nothing on the festivities that surrounded my divorce. In fact, the only thing I mourned following my divorce was the extra direct deposit every week. That part sucked. To say we were broke is an understatement at best. I moved back into Mama’s house and I was driving my grandmother’s Oldsmobile – the one she left behind when she died. Neither was ideal but they worked and I was thankful to have both Mama and the car.
There were no family vacations. No trips to the beach or mountain getaways. Hell, I was lucky enough to have money to put gas in my car to get to work each morning so filling up for a ride to the coast was out of the question. Summer vacations were spent in blow-up pools on the farm and under blanket forts on the living room floor. I had not been on a vacation in years. Olivia had never been on vacation. And I wasn’t planning on a vacation anytime in the foreseeable future. Olivia had other plans.
It was about 12 years ago; the spring after Olivia’s third birthday and a friend of mine was getting married. Her wedding was just outside of Charlotte in Rock Hill, a two-hour drive from home. Corrie, Jason, and Olivia were invited, too. I wasn’t particularly thrilled about lugging along a three-year-old but if I was going, the three-year-old was going. We’d decided to get a hotel room near the reception venue because if you know anything about a Bush girl or Jason then you know we like to drink, especially at a wedding reception. We’d head up to Rock Hill on Saturday morning, check into our hotel, do the wedding/reception thing, and spend the night in the hotel before heading home on Sunday morning. Someone (not me) sprung for a room with two double beds. Jason and Corrie would share a bed and Olivia and I would share the other. It would be tight, but we would make the best of it.
We set out on Saturday morning for Rock Hill. The entire two-hour drive consisted of Olivia asking “where are we going again” and “how much longer”. I rolled my eyes and huffed and puffed each time I had to answer the same questions again and again. Looking back, though, I feel horrible about my reaction since I didn’t know those questions were not coming from a pestering three-year-old. Instead, they were coming from a child who had no idea what to expect on our journey and who in two short hours had turned our overnight trip to Rock Hill, South Carolina into a full-blown vacation.
When we arrived at our hotel you would have thought we’d just landed at Disney World. There was no Mickey and no Minnie but she was just as captivated. My three-year-old was enchanted by the sight of a building with halls and rooms and vending and ice machines. We weren’t at the Four Seasons. There was no bellhop or concierge or valet or room service. We were at the Wingate Inn on I-77, for God’s sake. But she was in heaven. In the room, she dove from bed to bed – her own personal playground. Every chance she got she asked to go back to the ice machine and she couldn’t wait to take a bath in the hotel tub. When it was time to leave the room for the wedding she protested. During the ceremony and at the reception she repeatedly asked when we could go back to the hotel – which she preciously referred to as “Rock Hild.” See, during on our drive up when she asked over and over and over where we were going my reply was always “Rock Hill.” She obviously heard this as “Rock Hild.” And when we arrived at our hotel that day, she believed we had arrived exactly where I’d said we were going. We didn’t stay at the wedding reception long and didn’t drink nearly as much as we’d planned because all Olivia cared about was going back to the hotel, “Rock Hild.”
It was months after our overnight trip to “Rock Hild” that Olivia finally stopped asking when we could go back. Since that time we’ve been on many vacations. She’s taken several trips to the beach. She’s been on a couple of mountain getaways. She’s been to Disney World and she’s visited Gettysburg. She’s seen the White House and the Liberty Bell and enjoyed the Christmas lights at Boston’s Faneuil Hall. And yet, after all of these wonderful trips and experiences, there is nothing in this world that my child loves more than a stay in a hotel room – even if it’s just at the Wingate Inn on I-77 in Rock Hild – one of our most favorite “vacations” ever.
I guess it doesn’t take much after all.
I love you, Goose!