Trip Shows How My Hospitality Skills Are Lacking


Mark and I spent last week in Virginia Beach, catching up with son Brad, his wife Brooke and their two preteen sons. It was a great trip. Brad is a Navy pilot, so Mark got to test his skills in the simulator jet, replenish his supply of hats emblazoned with the squadron’s logo and watch his son streak loudly overhead in an F-18 Super Hornet.

I got to watch the boys play soccer and basketball (they’re good!) and take the obligatory trip to urgent care, a rather common occurrence for preteen boys who play sports. (It was a re-break of an old thumb injury — nothing too gruesome.)

The worst part of the trip for me happened on the way home when I realized that Brooke had made my own hostess skills look bad.

She had greeted us at the airport with bottles of icy lemon-infused water “because it’s important to re-hydrate after a flight.” We weren’t allowed to touch our bags; she had the boys lug them to the car and hoist them in. The kids were then banished to the back seats so Mark and I could have the biggest windows in order to “take in the scenery.”

The next six days were a whirlwind of activity, with each new diversion scaled to our interests and skill levels. With Brooke and Brad as our private guides, there was antiquing for me, a tour of the base for Mark; shopping on the boardwalk for me, a rented fishing boat for Mark. Sprinkled in were exciting activities with their well-mannered, funny and intelligent boys.

We didn’t have to buy any food because, exactly 10 minutes before we would naturally be getting hungry, Brooke would pull out a temperature-controlled sack or pouch filled with healthy, colorful snacks — unless it was mealtime. If it was mealtime, she would get us settled in our places at the kitchen table (with a plateful of hors d’oeuvres!) and let us watch while she almost magically produced a fabulous dinner from items she had prepped in advance. She even had my favorite wine on hand, having taken notes on my preference somewhere in our history.

The bed was comfy, with crisply laundered sheets, a carafe of water on the nightstand and (get this) a tin of nuts “in case you want a midnight snack.” She would’ve done our laundry before we left if I hadn’t wrestled it away from her.

Mark never wanted to leave.

Fast forward to next week, when my cousin comes for a visit, poor thing. I will pick her up at the airport, probably grumbling about having to pay for parking. There will be no water for her, as I will have downed a large Coke on the way over and, therefore, won’t be thinking about thirst. I will take her bag to the car, but only because she’ll probably be juggling a couple of carry-ons. She can sit in the front seat as long as she doesn’t step on any of the stuff I keep on the floorboards for emergencies, like magazines and empty French fry containers.

We’ll have a long talk that evening no matter how tired she is and, when I finally get sleepy, I’ll brush the crumbs off the bed in the guest room. In the morning, I’ll look at her across a stale bagel and ask, “Ya wanna do something’?” I’ll let her come up with ideas until she hits upon something I like.

If she gets hungry while she’s here, I’ll give her first choice of the drive-thrus. At mealtime, I’ll defrost some leftovers. She can even have a glass of my favorite wine. Plus, I have a barely used trash bag she can put her dirty laundry in.

See? I can be caring and considerate, too.