Thursday, June 30, 2011

cutting the barber's hair

I'm sure everyone is pretty well sick of hearing about our vacation by now (yes, everyone loves to hear about a fun trip, but after a certain point it does veer into that "endless slideshow at your grandparent's house" territory--not that I don't love an old school slideshow, mostly because I like to push the big button and I like the sound it makes when the slide cah-chung advances in front of the lamp), but in this final post of our vacation week, I would be remiss to not talk about the Bluefields staff that made our vacation so special.

So look, for real, I felt weird about having so many people around whose sole purpose was to make sure that we had a nice vacation.  I know that's the whole reputation of this place, that it takes exquisite care of its guests, but having so many people around to help felt...I don't know, like putting on airs.  When we go on vacation, we take care of our own kids, carry our own luggage, corral all our own little pool toys at the end of the day, fend for ourselves, you know?  Being waited on makes us feel a little spoiled.

I remember when I first started working at St. Joseph's down in Atlanta (everyone knows where I work now, right?  It's on all my press info now, no real point in keeping it some big secret anymore) right after I finished residency, and I was just in the habit of doing everything myself and getting and assembling all my own supplies, because...well, because old residency habits die hard.  This principle can be generalized to our entire lives.  I was worried that they'd be sitting around watching me and I'd be watching them and we'd smile at each other awkwardly and it would be Awkwardville, the capital city of the state of Awkwardia.  Because we're just folks!  We don't need a headman and a cook and a nanny and guy who sets out beach chairs for us!  Hey, bellman, gimmie that thing!  How about I'll carry it for you!

And I'll not lie, even now, at the end of the week, it still feels a little weird, because Joe and I are very used to taking care of other people, and not so used to people taking care of us.  But the staff here is so warm and so helpful and so present, but in the most seamless, unobtrusive way possible, that quite honestly, it stops being very very weird and starts to become...well.  Let's just put it this way: it's always nice to be so well cared for.

One of the ways that we notice it the most is that when you travel with young kids, there are a lot of little details that you have to worry about.  Packing beach bags.  Lugging towels.  Rinsing out sandy swimsuits and hanging them to dry afterwards.  Procuring and transporting a reservoir of snacks and drinks to bring with you. (Right now, at home, I have a diaper bag crammed full of used little Ziplock baggies with crumbs in them which have been used for this very purpose.)  Planning meals--where, when, how, and what.  Trying to spend time with one kid while supervising your other kid who is trying to go kamikaze over the side of the pool.  You know, nothing bad, nothing difficult, nothing that any parent doesn't do all day, every day, but just...things.  The little things.

And that's the magic of this place, and the staff here.  The little things.  The little, little everyday things.  Like: OK today.  I'll just tell you about today.

Today we went down to the beach.  We went down to the beach with our beach bag and our towels, but we forgot to bring our little sand toys.  Before we could even say anything--before we even realized that we'd forgotten them, it seems--Kerri Ann came down with a pile of buckets and shovels for Cal's sand castle, and then very unobtrusively left us alone to our family time.  Later on, we came back up from the beach to the pool (I know, I know, such a tough life, look, I HATE ME TOO), Rosemary magically appeared with these little tiny grilled cheese sandwiches for the kids to eat, because lunch wasn't going to be until a little later and she thought they might be hungry.  (They were.)  While the kids were in the pool, I came back to the house for half an hour, and while I was inside, Rosemary stayed outside with Joe and the boys, just to be available as an extra hand by the pool, since Mack can't swim, and Cal sometimes thinks he can swim a little better than he actually can.  At lunch, Dwight made strawberry banana smoothies for Mack, because he loved them the first day he was here and Dwight knows that he's been asking for "that pink drink" basically every day since then.  

Or like this: our first day here, after our walk down to the beach, we came back to find that our suitcases had been unpacked for us.  A few days later, I found a folded piles of clean kids clothes in the closet, fresh from the laundry.  We're going to have a suitcase full of clean clothes to take back home with us.  This has never happened before, ever.  It's also allowed us to travel so much lighter, because usually, for Mack, if we're going to be somewhere for 7 days, I'm packing, like, 21 changes of clothes.  I am not exaggerating.  (Kid's a mess.)

Or like this: yesterday, someone came to get us in the front yard to tell us that "the donkey is here."  There's this donkey that lives nearby, and when there are kids staying at Bluefields, sometimes they have him come over to give rides.  And the donkey wears a wreath of flowers and little hat.  WHICH IS AWESOME.

It's things like that.  The little, little things.  Things that make this family vacation a real vacation for everyone, and about someone taking care of those who are usually taking care of other people, like that old riddle of who cuts the barber's hair.  It's not about being overly programmed or not even about having someone else take your kids off your hands for the whole week.  We don't want that.  When we're off from work, Joe and I want to be at the bottom of a dog pile of kids.  But it's about a vacation from the little things, and making new, lasting memories of the big things that are important.

We're leaving here Saturday morning, and I'm going to take a little break from blogging for the rest of my vacation until we get back to the ATL.  But from me and my family to Bluefields and theirs, thank you so much for taking such good care of us this week.  We will never forget our first time here, and can't wait to come back.


  1. Anonymous8:54 PM

    Joe and I are do-gooders! Joe and I always take care of everyone else and never ourselves! Joe and I are Jesus Christ incarnate!

  2. Maybe Joe is, but I'm sure not. :)

  3. Anonymous9:09 PM

    Cool picture where it looks like the pool water is extending right into the ocean.

  4. Anonymous9:52 PM

    Is there anything at your hospital that indicates to a patient it's a Catholic hospital in terms of the care or service they receive? I've always thought the concept of Catholic-owned hospitals for a general, and potentially non-Christian/Catholic population was a little weird or off-putting. You do not appear to be religious on your blog. Just curious.

  5. I always feel that way when we're dragged to India, because it's the norm for families to have multiple servants, so when my sister and I land up with our mom, we're standing around awkwardly telling my grandmother's servants, "Uh...we can fold our own clothes...sit down, do you want water?" while Mom is happily enjoying a summer without laundry

    But, you're right, it is the unobtrusive little things, like when my cousin's cook, who spoke zero English, would always make tea for me every two or three hours, or when the woman who helps my Gma with her laundry always does mine and folds it.

    But, it's still awkward. I have two hands and I don't mind doing chores.

    Just for the record, we have zero hired help here in the USA. You wouldn't BELIEVE the shocked stares I get when I tell my relatives that.

    Glad to see you're having fun! The kids are adorable!

  6. I'm not Catholic either (obviously), but from what I've experienced the religious affiliations of the hospital are more inclusive than exclusive--there is a significant component of charity care and our volunteer department is particularly strong, in other words. But I am not a spokesperson for the hospital, so I can't speak to too much more than that, except that I've been very happy to work there, and I think the quality of care is excellent.

  7. Anonymous2:35 AM

    When you break it down to how the staff helps with all the little things it seems not so extravagant. I would be a little uneasy with someone else unpacking my bags or washing my dirty clothes...

  8. Anonymous12:21 PM

    Was your whole trip free or did you just get a discount?

  9. We paid for our flights, all incidentals (like the side trips), and staff gratuities. And yes, we are already making plans to return next year as regular, non-bloggy guests. It has really been wonderful.

  10. Anonymous2:54 PM

    Joe looks *buff* in that second pic. Awooga! Haha sorry I couldn't resist.
    Glad you and the fam are enjoying yourselves Michelle :)

  11. He will be glad to hear it! :)

  12. are the beach & ocean water as clean as it looks?

  13. Aliendoc: absolutely!

  14. Wait, I think I missed it. Who sponsored the trip? I thought it was just your vacation? Now I MUST KNOW and get on their list.

  15. Anonymous3:14 PM

    You only paid for airfare, extras, and gratuity? Meaning you basically got a $4000 vacation for free in return for blogging about the place? That is unreal.

  16. Sounds like a LOVELY vacation!

  17. Anonymous5:10 PM

    Absolutely stunning! While I am deep into the ugliest of emotions, jealousy, you guys deserve this wonderful vacation as you spend the rest of your year working your asses off for others.

  18. Anonymous8:25 AM

    pink drink sounds tasty

  19. michelle, this post made me cry (good tears)! it sounds like it was a very special vacation.

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