I have never had the typical college spring break. I've gone to Salt Lake City to visit a then-boyfriend, Atlanta with my mom to visit my grandparents, to Portland with my brother, his girlfriend and my mom, and home for a week. This last spring break was a road trip with my family, my parents and brother, to California to visit family.
We ate lunch in Idaho, and dinner in Winamucca, at a local pizza place. My dad decided to stop there for the night, and stopped at the first cheap motel, the Economy Inn. He paid the $60-some dollars, and we went to our room. There were garlic clove skins on the floor, and something that looked like dried vomit or sperm on the red curtains.
I went back to the front desk ask for sheets to put on the floor-my brother gets the second bed, I sleep in a sleeping bag on the floor. That's the way it's always been on family road trips.
I was skipping across the parking lot, as I do. I heard a man whistling "Hey, baby girl! Come on over here!" It was dark, and I ignored the voice. I got to the front desk...which was empty. I waited for a bit, then left, only to hear "Hey, baby girl! Do you need something?"
"Um, do you work here?"
A man with a giant beard sat smoking with another man outside. "I do, baby girl. How can I help?"
"Well, first of all, please don't call me that. It's offensive. Can I please have 2 more towels and a sheet?"
He disappeared inside and came back with a full sheet set and towels. I thanked him and he asked "So, how old are you?"
He leered. "Damn, you look young!"
"Thank you for the stuff. Have a good night." I went back to the room, sort of shaken. He was so much bigger than me and intimidating, and I don't like it when men call me 'baby' and it was dark and there was no one else around and it was just scary.
I went back to the room, where my brother turned back the sheets on his bed, and discovered...a peanut. Seriously.
The night passed, and the free continental breakfast turned out to be packets of the peanut butter and chocolate Little Debbie's Nutty Buddy bars.
Once we got to San Fransisco, we had a delicious lunch with my favorite cousin and her husband. We spent the night at my grandparents' house. My parents and I cleaned the house a little, throwing out Consumer Report magazines from the 90's, wine that had turned to vinegar, a printed guide on how to use dial-up internet, color-arranged bread clips and twisty-ties, pens that didn't work, 20 year-old receipts, and disgusting old food. We made a dent. I never knew that canned food would buckle with age.
Each day, we drove out to their retirement home to visit my grandparents, my 97 year-old grandfather and my 85 year-old grandmother.
I thought that I was prepared to see my wonderful French grandmother again. I hadn't seen them since 2009, and she had a stroke in November. My dad had told me how she was, as had my aunt. But seeing her in a wheelchair...it was really hard. She mostly said "yes" or "no", it was a little triumph each time she spoke a whole sentence or laughed. The hardest part was seeing her cry, I had never seen Mima cry before.
I had a little alone time with her, I showed her some old family Christmas cards, from the 1950s, and then we started talking about her and Grandpa's relationship. I asked her "I know you met him on a blind date when you were an au pair, was it in Illinois, or Connecticut?"
It came to her immediately. "Connecticut".
"And the cellist that introduced you, what was his name?"
"Wow, Mima. And now you've been married more than 60 years. I hope that I have a relationship like yours and Grandpa's someday."
She started speaking in French, a whole paragraph, when she noticed my look of incomprehension and wonder. She switched to English. "You will find the love that I have had someday. You will be as happy as I am, and you will meet a wonderful man."
I almost started crying.
Later in the week, I asked to say goodbye to her alone. My parents left the room, and we held hands. She told me I was beautiful, and that I could only cry "happy tears". She kept telling me to "remember that you are a part of it". I thanked her for giving me a love of ballet and travel, and we told each other "I love you." It was the goodbye I wish I could have with everyone.