I am holding baby Olive her little body curled around my belly. She is sleeping and in a few minutes our breathing is synchronized. I am wishing the remote control for the hotel TV was close by. On screen is a talk show with several mouthy women with noticeable cleavages all vying for center stage. I would prefer hearing Olive's soft baby breath than this cacophony nonsense. The women are trying to sell me a Fountain of Youth serum that works in sync with a magical vibrating machine in the shape of a clothes iron that will plump up my facial skin. Clearly, they did not consider the impossibility of all this before they put themselves out for the product.
What is it like, swimming, asks my mother. Like flying, I tell her. She had always been fearful of water, even water from a shower head beating on her chest or crossing a bridge over a river. I am floating on my back in the hotel pool and my ears are under water allowing thoughts to be uninterrupted. Outside clatter is reduced to a dull shimmer of sound. I thought of my mother when I was holding Olive earlier. She had not lived long enough to see this baby, this small girl with the huge grey eyes, already secrets behind them.
I am on the floor playing with the girls and Jim walks in dressed for his interviews. He has eighteen meetings in two days and Sara has fifteen. I jump up and attempt to scratch off what appears to be, and probably is, congealed cracker on his coat. How important is this, he growls. Both of my sons bristle if I show them any signs of mothering. I went to a convent high school and the nuns taught us the proper time to wear white gloves, so I notice those kinds of persnickety things. Yes, I am that old.
The University is footing our bill - everything except alcohol - they must have heard about me. The hotel is a swanky, multiple-starred place and like any other regular joe I have one thought when exposed to the sweet life - I could so get used to this. I like room service. I do not need to change my Beatles t-shirt and sweat pants. I get all my food at once instead of dragging out the courses and forcing to me to finish the sourdough bread leaving Dave the yucky olive bread. We don't need to listen to schmaltzy restaurant music and I can read my book while I chew. Nate is the room service guy and I have never met a man more in need of a compliment. He looks like he stepped out of GQ, every thin hair carefully plastered and curled around his bald friar's dome. He brings in the food with a flourish, the blueberry muffin he warmed himself, the cellophane-wrapped crystal goblets, the perfect square of butter on the hotel china. He stays way past the tip encouraging my thanks and compliments. Five minutes into eating my scrambled eggs he is on the phone needing to hear again how wonderful it all is.