The night before we left, everyone got sick. The stomach bug had been going around, and of course it was fitting that we all come down with it the night before we were scheduled to drive 16 hours to New Hampshire. It was only a couple of days before Christmas.
I was 15, my brother Nicholas was 13, and my brother Peter was 10. My grandparents on my father’s side loved to travel and had funded a Christmas vacation for themselves, our family, and my dad’s sister’s family to the picturesque Mt. Washington Hotel in NH.
Coming from a relatively large family, we didn’t take extravagant trips often; when we did travel, we never flew. Regardless of the unpleasant circumstances of the night before, we decided to go anyway. (The trip was non-refundable)The car ride was, well, long.
Crammed in the back seat of a 1995 Astro-star van was less than pleasurable, and my youngest brother, Peter, ensured that there was never a dull moment. I must say I don’t think I have ever been quite as stumped when he posed questions to the group such as ‘can you smell in space?’ or ‘how much did we think that man over there made per hour?’…as if we had some secret prior knowledge that he did not.
By the time we reached the snow covered hotel at around midnight, we were all ready to fling open the sliding door of the van and launch ourselves out into the snowy abyss. After some much-needed sleep in our giant and expensive suite, my brothers and I played in the snow, which was getting deeper by the minute and wore ourselves out by midday.
Growing up in the South we did not see much snow; even at the age of 15 I was amazed by it. It was Christmas Eve, and we had dinner in one of the hotel’s restaurants with our grandparents and aunt’s family. Although the service was very slow we all enjoyed each other’s company.
Before our food arrived my brother Nicholas, who has always been rather emotional, asked to be excused into the lobby. Puzzled by his leaving, my dad went out into the hall to check on him. When asked what was wrong he started to cry and responded ‘I’m just so happy.’ We laughed then, but looking back on it, I miss his innocence and how easily his happiness came.That night my brothers and I were watching Gilligan’s Island in the hotel room while my parents were in the tavern under the hotel.
A loud ringing interrupted the show. My first thought was that someone had pulled the elevator alarm. However, after we heard frantic motion in the hallways, we came the scary realization that the hotel was on fire. I grabbed both my brothers by the arm and, after feeling the door, ran into the hallway and down into the lobby.
My parents met us there and we evacuated with at least a thousand other people into the snow. It was 17 degrees below zero and my hair, wet from the pool, actually froze. Many people were in heels from dinner; many had no shoes at all.
We walked almost a quarter mile to the car and stayed there for over 3 hours eating cheese and crackers and watching The Goonies on our portable VCR TV. Finally, we were allowed back in and ensured that it was a mere chimney fire.The rest of the vacation was lovely and I was sad to leave the beautiful hotel.
On the drive home we got trapped by another snow storm in New York. We stopped at a hotel where my dad and brother Nicholas both got the stomach bug again. Staying in a small room with them was miserable. Thankfully, there was a movie theater just a few minutes away and my mother, my brother Peter, and I walked there. When we came back the hotel room was covered with water. Apparently my dad had gotten ill from the other end, to put it politely.
It was at that point that I concluded that God must have put evil on our family. Between the fire, the blizzards, the disease, us almost killing Peter on the ride up (death of the youngest child), and the flood, all that was missing was locusts. To say the least, it was not a perfect vacation, but spending all the time in the car and then in the hotel with my family gave me a deeper appreciation for them – as well as the fact that no matter how bad you think things are, things can always get worse.
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