I question the viability of any journey that produces no entertaining tale, no humorous tidbit destined to become ingrained in family legend for decades to come. If a family travels in the middle of the forest and can’t turn on their hotel lights and no one hears them, did they really go on a trip? Exactly. Well, fear not, readers o’ mine: we traveled across the state to my grandfather’s funeral and have lived to tell the tale. Timber.
You’ll be pleased to know that the real kicks and giggles of the event did not take place at the funeral (the most scandalous thing that happened in the actual service, I believe, was that I apparently played a bunch of Methodist hymns at a Lutheran service. I’ll be taking that up with Google later. Well, that and apparently my shoes. That might need its own post, but for the record — they were black!! Boring! Hardly deserving of the notice they unfortunately received…), but instead the night before. I am blessed with a brother-in-law who travels frequently, is unfailingly generous, and makes a killer smoked tri-tip (that last one doesn’t really come into play in this story, I just thought you should know) and he set us up in a nearby hotel using his spare points. Apart from the front desk smelling overwhelmingly of marijuana, which could have just been the guest in front of me (we are still in the state of Washington, after all), it seemed a lovely, new and clean establishment. It gave me momentary pause when the front desk staff giggled nervously, with the sort of apologetic eyes you give at the person stuck next to you on a bus when your baby suffers an ill-timed diaper blowout 30 seconds into the ride, and explained that they were an “energy saving hotel”. I figured it was yet another push for us to shower less, or at least not dry off when we are compelled to bathe, and since I don’t like taking showers anyway, I let it go without so much as a concerned eyebrow back.
What can I say, I was tired.
The room housed 2 queen beds and a pull out sofa bed. Now, perhaps the hierarchy of spines in a family is not fair, but hey, kids, life isn’t fair, so youngest spines get the worst mattresses. Correction: they get the presumably worst mattresses.
It was late, we were exhausted, so we ordered pizza and flopped out on the beds to mindlessly absorb Chip and JoJo fixing up old houses (mesmerizing and seriously, if I ever contemplate home owning or remodeling, sit me down in front of that channel until I start to speak sense again). Upon entering the room, we did learn that the only way to turn on the lights was to insert the magnetic key card into a special slot in the wall, whereupon all the lights in the room would flip on, stadium style. This struck us as a little silly, but the full ramifications of such an “energy saving” policy did not hit us fully until later in the night.
We were all pretty happy to collapse into bed. That is… until we actually tried to sleep.
Maybe it was just the impact of 6 bodies in a relatively cozy space (talk about your global warming), but the room was quickly roasting. Like Quail turning on a spit HOT. The Beloved and I lied to ourselves for awhile, believing that perhaps we were the only ones not sleeping, when suddenly I heard the hiss of an agitated and demonstrably awake Boy Quail, threatening bodily harm to Youngest Quail via a hard push off the sofa bed if she kicked him one more time, at which she insisted that she had been asleep and had not purposefully done anything of the kind. This was an out of character remark for the Boy Quail, indicating to me that the end of his tether was some 7.5 inches above his curly head; historically, he is an excellent sleeper and generally quite patient.
To prevent siblingicide, we pulled the old switcharoo: Quail the Younger moved up to the real bed, and I taking her place on the sofa bed while the Beloved turned on air conditioning and cranked the temperature down to 65 (which worked splendidly after another 3 hours or so).
Side note: I am fully aware that the moments I have left where my son will cuddle up to me are numbered, probably down to single digits. I know that my power to soothe and give comfort will steadily weaken until the only comfort available will be that which they offer to me. I do not begrudge this, nor am I grasping to hold it longer than God is giving it. But I delight in it, in this moment in time, and while there was little to no sleep to be had, I treasured the time (the Beloved attempted something similar but was rebuffed with her choking little gasp and something discourteous, albeit in her tiny playful voice, about his breath).
It was during this interval of the night that we discovered the real bugaboo of energy saving. What happens if the only lights available come by inserting something into a small crack in the wall (a thing that has been hardwired into all of us not to do — light sockets, anyone?), and even if you could find that crack it would turn a dark room of sleepers into a bright scene from the Spanish Inquisition in the time it would take to shout “Dash it, all, Al Gore!!” — and then someone has to go to the bathroom??!! Imagine the urgency involved as you feel along the beds, resist the temptation to tickle toes, first wander awkwardly in the closet, manage to back yourself into the bathtub, all the while trying not to create a crisis that pertains to a loss of bladder control (anticipation being a powerful force).
It wasn’t pretty. I found myself wondering if the energy we were supposedly saving by having such danged needy lights was more than used by the housecleaning staff who probably had to spend extra time and effort and energy cleaning strange puddles from inside the bottom of the coat closet and the safe.
By morning (after hours of watch-checking — it has to be nearly morning, right?? First heard at 11:30 PM), we looked like a family of vampires before a feeding and decided the only logical response was to crack open the package of rocky road that Daddy treated us to when he surprised us with a trip to Boehm’s Chocolates on our way out of town and eat the whole thing, right there on our torture racks, er, beds. I did, for the record, intend a slow and gentle, one might say a sweet, wakeup call to the Quail.
But… well… the only way to turn on the lights was to insert the card…
The important punchline to this story comes in the morning, with our spines bent like question marks — it isn’t the misery that makes a good story. It is the hero’s laughter in the face of the misery. It is the dragon who must lie down dead when mocked openly in the name of the Living God. It is the sore difficulty (literally. Like, sore for days) that is itself made into the punchline because we belong to the King who brings life out of death, joy out of sorrow, loyalty out of lumpy mattresses and hot hotel rooms. We can laugh til tears are streaming down our cheeks and eat marshmallows covered in chocolate for a pre-breakfast snack because God was in the manger, because God went to the cross, because God didn’t stay in the tomb.
Come, soul. Why are you downcast? Hope in God. He will be your Savior still.