By Lisa Cherry
We were winding up our ten day spring trip, and I was so proud of my crew. Those nine children (ages nine months to sixteen years) and my beautiful daughter-in-law can serve as my travel team any day!
At the ATF events in Tulsa and Dallas, they eagerly set up booths, sold books, packed brochures and interacted with the conference attendees, their presence and enthusiasm inspiring many favorable comments.
We found ourselves in the historic Adolphus Hotel in the downtown area of Dallas. It was the fifth place we stayed during this trip. I’m not sure how it got booked for us at such a reasonable rate, but for us nomads it was the grand finale.
Beautiful restored antique furnishings screamed high class from the moment we pulled up in front. A $2 million carved table under a glass chandelier in the lobby foreshadowed the dozens of times I would say “Be careful!” during our two day stay. This was sweet, big city elegance for this small town family. And the icing on the cake was $24-a-day valet parking.
We checked into our hotel in two shifts, and this definitely helped take the edge off our entrance. Soon after we were settled in, I was trying to imagine how all eleven of us with our pile of backpacks, duffel bags, suitcases, baby equipment, and cooler would make any kind of presentable exit! I knew we would have only one shot at it.
I envisioned the valet driver bringing our crumb-infested, toy-laden van up to the lobby and bell hops would insist on loading the back end. This could be sheer terror! Had these bell hops ever encountered a family of our size before? Well they were about to.
Our departure would need to be carefully choreographed, and executed with peace, order and compliance. I prayed for grace and wisdom. The night before we left I began to strategize carefully.
In order to make it home to southern Illinois in one day, we would need to hit our 7:30 a.m. departure time promptly. All the little ones would be showered and dressed in travel clothes the night before. At 7:15 a.m. we would call for the bell hop. Each child would wear a backpack. The older kids would pull a suitcase.
The appointed hour arrived. We made our way down the hall, an exasperated bell hop pulling our overstuffed cart, and the children following single file with their backpacks. “Could it be the Von Trapp family?” someone seeing us might have wondered.
I had sternly warned the children to follow the plan and behave, and the teens had threatened them too.
The valet driver brought our 15 passenger van to us at the curb. Each child hopped in and the babies were fastened into their car seats. It was time to load our mountain of luggage. I remembered how hard Tara and I had worked when we left our last four stops, carefully stacking all the bags so that we could close the door. Would the bell hop be up to this challenge?
I had told the children to be prepared to put anything on their laps that I handed them. We would pull over later to adjust if necessary, but somehow we needed to get away from that hotel and down the road without a scene! All eyes were as big as saucers as we awaited the verdict.
Slam! The bell hop shut the door. I handed him a nice tip, hopped in the driver’s seat, and drove away. Victory! The children had been cooperative and obedient. We had avoided a meltdown at the hotel entrance, and we were on our way home again. If we ever encounter valet parking again, we will face it with confidence. We have got this thing down!