Do you remember the Gospel stories about Joseph and the very pregnant Mary trying desperately to find a place to stay? Of course you do. Anyway, I can relate. I’m not pregnant and I am not in a strange city ready to give birth with no place to stay, but still I can relate. Maybe a better analogy can be taken from the movie “Cheaper by the Dozen” where the wife is out of town and the dad, played by Steve Martin (sorry, Im horrible at names–even characters in my favorite movies), is trying to find a sitter. As soon as he mentions how many children he has the person on the other end of the line hangs up. He becomes so deflated that he calls numbers and then just says, “Nevermind. I’ll just hang up on myself.” Yes. That is a much better fit. Comparing myself to the Virgin Mary probably wasn’t a good place to start.
Anyhoooowww, I love to travel. With my kids. For several years it just wasn’t possible because of babies and complicated pregnancies; but, for the past two years we have traveled to Omaha and Wisconsin and we are ready to hit the road again. So, here’s the glitch. The last couple of trips we’ve just
invaded stayed with family or friends. Throw some air mattresses down, a couple of sleeping bags and the pack ‘n play for the babies and we’re there. This year my Nebraska relatives are out of town for the month of August. I know it sounds fishy, right?! I’m certain it has nothing to do with us invading staying with them two years in a row. No, really, because they were perfectly happy with us following them out to Colorado. I have friends there, so I thought we could just stay with them, but they have another family visiting that same week. Go figure. I’m sure that is just a coincidence as well. Anyway, after all these complications I decided that maybe we were supposed to find a different destination. So, Ft. Davis, Texas came to mind. We visited 13 years ago when we started homeschooling and the younger kids haven’t been to the Davis Mountains. I called the lodge where we stayed the last time. Denied. It is owned by the Texas State Parks, but we have to rent two rooms with an adult in each room. So the single mom traveling with seven minor children cannot possibly be accommodated. The girl was very nice and referred me to a neighboring State Park that rents connecting rooms. Denied again. They did say they would accommodate me, but because they do not reserve specific rooms, they could not guarantee that the rooms would be connected or even near one another. Common sense tells me it would not be wise to travel 12 hours across the state and hope that we get connecting rooms when we arrive at 9pm.
This phenomenon is not anything new. Any family with more than three children experiences the no-room-at-the-inn response unless you want to rent two rooms at $100 each and that is at the cheap end. After six kids you are straight out of luck unless you split into three rooms and convince your mother-in-law to join you. Of course, then you don’t have room in the car and two vehicles are required. After the expense and hassle it is no longer a fun get away, but has morphed into a strange form of self-torture and the most expensive vacation that you have ever planned. (Note: This is nothing against my mother-in-law who is one of the sweetest women I have ever known and who has taken many vacations with us before the last three kids squeezed her out of the car) But, I digress. Last summer the kids and I drove all the way to Green Bay, Wisconsin. It was great. We stayed with family and friends in Omaha on the way up and stayed with family in Green Bay as well. Well, nine hours into the twelve-hour drive back to Omaha I knew I was done. Actually, I realized it three hours into the trip and was smart enough to call my husband and have him find a hotel room in Des Moines. We hit Des Moines at 9pm and I was exhausted. My fourteen year-old acting as my own personal cheerleader kept me awake sitting next to me in the front seat. “You can do it, Mom!” Only 10 more minutes. Nine more minutes. Eight more minutes. Each minute seemed to drag on forever until we saw the exit. I went and checked in at the front desk and left the kids in the car. I scoped out the layout of the front desk and elevators. I strategized the best way to get to the second floor with 8 kids unnoticed. Ha! Lucky for me the rolling rack was available. I rolled it out to the car and proceeded to load up the two suitcases, two playpens, eight pillows, blankets and baby dolls. I had the oldest carry the baby and the fourteen year-old carry the toddler. The other four kids were instructed to walk on the right side of the cart and to be quiet. We managed to make it onto the elevator just fine and the kids thought the mission had been accomplished, but I quickly quieted them and said, “No. We have to make it into the room and then we can’t be loud or disturb the others staying at the hotel.” Upon exiting the elevator I noticed the night manager at the other end of the floor. “Quick, kids. Behind the cart.” We quickly opened our door and ushered in and flopped on the bed in laughter. I’m certain no one noticed the overloaded cart, the mom and eight kids in tow. If they did may God bless them for taking pity on us and looking the other way. The room arrangement was an exercise in geometry all on its own. Thank goodness for the oversized window ledge that made a bed for Lauren. Three kids slept sideways on one double bed, Joshua was on the floor between the wall and one bed, Allison and I shared the other double bed and we squeezed one playpen between the beds and one at the foot of my bed. There was little room to spare, but we all had a place to lay our heads, air conditioning and indoor plumbing.
It is sad that it had to come to that. To sneaking into a hotel room like we were thieves in the night. It is a statement of just how anti-family our society has become. Most people would never know how it affects big families. The reservations operators always apologize, but quickly state that their hands are tied by fire safety codes and insurance regulations. I understand the laws are meant to protect us, but sometimes our efforts to avoid any and all suffering really just take the enjoyment out of the simple things in life. My kids would happily sleep on blanket pallets on the floor to expand their horizons and see more of the world, but it is nearly impossible to find a place that allows you to do so without spending hundreds of dollars a night for shelter or being dishonest about how many kids you have and essentially breaking the law by violating codes and ordinances. So, the next time I plan a vacation I will call several hotels and when they answer I may just say, “Never mind. I’ll just hang up on myself.” And then I will take out my list of contacts and start calling friends and family to see if they are up for a visit from their crazy Texas kinfolk. Don’t worry, folks, I’ll bring wine and buy the groceries!