Autumn's first trip was just meant to be a fun weekend away and to prepare her (and us) for larger trips. It was to be a new chapter, a chapter we were beginning as a family. But in hindsight, it was a continuation of a chapter already written; a chapter started by my Mom and I.
Our connection to the St. Regis first started in 2013 after Mom was newly diagnosed with brain cancer. A time when we knew of the things to come and they scared the heck out of us. Cancer was on our mind 100% of the time, and all the fear that even the word evokes, including fear of the unknown. But it was before cancer had the opportunity to rob my mom of her energy, joy and life. She had not yet started to experience all of the awful effects of chemotherapy. It had not yet taken her vision, her taste or her energy.
|Our Spa Day, October 26th, 2013|
We did not have a lot of discretionary income because it was less than one month before our wedding. Even if we had, it would be impractical to spend it on a place as nice as the St. Regis.
That day meant so much to us both. After valeting the car and walking into Spa Gaucin, we both, without verbalizing it, left cancer at the door. It was a day to slow down and just enjoy the company and presence of each other, knowing without speaking it, that the time was now limited. We each has massages in separate rooms with a fireplace and candles, and were treated to champagne and chocolate covered strawberries. When we left, the cancer seemed a little less present.
I thought that would be the end of the story and that day at the St. Regis and the experience there was a one-time event. But like so many things in life, larger patterns are at work and experiences that you think won't happen again come around in altered variations.
Once again, due to the kindness of a stranger, who now had become a friend, we were able to make another visit. The charges for the weekend, $1,300, were reversed once I completed my 80 page Forbes Five-Star Audit. The second visit could not include my mom of course, but included her grandchild Autumn. Knowing about my previous trip, Nathan asked "It won't be too upsetting for you, will it?" Thinking it could be, but not wanting to miss out on the opportunity, I assuredly responded with a "Nah."
I have never stayed at such a nice hotel in the United States. I say US because it cannot really compare to our pool villa in Thailand, where we were able to get 4 nights for the price of this. But, that is a place where your dollar goes much, much farther, and where I could get hour-long massages for $10, including tip. The design, grounds, restaurant and pools of the St. Regis were all very plush and of a higher quality than I am used to. But to me, the main difference was the level of service. Everyone called us by our last name and when we asked someone for directions to the elevator, for example, they walked us there instead of telling us or pointing.
When we arrived, we took the tram to their private beach. While they have a service that will set up lounges chairs and an umbrella for you, we didn't stay long. Autumn is still too young for sunscreen, so I brought my umbrella to shade her, only casting it aside when we took pictures. This is the first time Autumn had seen the ocean, and it was thrilling for us to watch her look out at the waves. I'm not sure she knew what to make of the feel of the sand and the tide on her toes. As a reaction, she did her best starfish impression, putting each extremity in a different direction, which we found adorable.
She was much more receptive to the pool, and to lounging (like her Dad!). As soon as we entered the side that had the kids pool, the staff set up our towels for us (shade for me, sun for Nathan) and brought us over a pack-n-play.
I thought she might cry when I first put her in the water, but she didn't. That was until a little boy, 3 or 4 years old who was "playing" with her and talking to me, took her squirting fish toy and used it to squirt water directly into her face.
She was caught off guard, as was I, and started bawling.
He came back later with an apology that seemed very sincere. Not wanting to be "that" parent, I laughed it off and responded with "It's okay, she's in a pool. It happens." But in reality, I felt terrible for awhile afterwards because I didn't see it coming. I was holding her in my arms, but still couldn't stop it. And it made me think about all the future hurt she will endure that, just like this, I will not be able to shield her from. How she will feel when she looses me, like I lost my Mom. Thankfully, I quickly realized I was spending too much time worrying about the future and factors beyond my control. Mom always said Why worry over things you can't change?, and she's right: there is no purpose to it, and it only robs you of the joy of the present moment. Autumn will be hurt in the future, and that I can't control. What I can control is how, together, we handle the aftereffects which in this case, include forgiveness.
One of my favorite parts of the weekend was when we took a bath together. The tub was giant, of course, and she was so relaxed and content She floated in my arms enjoying her bottle with her hands crossed on her chest, almost in a praying position and making continual eye contact.
Afterwards, Nathan snapped this picture of us, as she responded to her name and smiled at him.
That's when it hit me.
This photo very much reminds me of the picture of Mom and I, also taken at the St. Regis, one month shy of two years ago. We did not set out to re-create it, and it was not even on my mind at the time. Yet here I was, slowing down and enjoying the moment with my daughter just like I had with Mom.
Remembering my time with Mom there and wishing she could be a part of Autumn's life, I started thinking about all the future memories to be created between Autumn and I. If we're lucky, a whole lifetime of them, just like Mom and I had. I sincerely hope that our relationship will be just as close, and will try to emulate all of the amazing parenting she did so that is the case.
For example, I spoke to Mom more than once every day of my adult life, and never out of obligation. It was because I wanted to, and doing so always brightened my day. She never judged, complained or offered advice, and was always so interested in me and my life. If I can do half as good of a job at parenting as Mom did, I am confident that we will be very close.