I launched Luxe Recess, a luxury family travel magazine, September 14, 2014, on my mother’s birthday. She died unexpectedly in 2011 while I was ten weeks pregnant with my second child.
Those who know me well know that my mother is responsible for my love of travel and hotels. She read me Eloise to sleep from age five until I didn't want to be read to anymore. Her personality was one perfectly suited for travel: she was open-minded, curious, friendly, and reasonable. We loved going anywhere, and we enjoyed hotels of any kind.
On one of our annual trips to Texas to Christmas shop, we had checked out of the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas and checked into a polar opposite hotel in Austin to visit the bargain shopper’s Mecca, the original Neiman Marcus Last Call (back when it really had incredible deals). She was never stuffy or fussy; and she was not a complainer. We laughed until tears streamed down our faces onto the dingy, stained carpet in this dive hotel for the contrasting experience we just had. She made any hotel fun; she showed me how to be a good guest, too.
Once I left the nest and moved to New York, we began traveling even more as a way to stay close and see each other. She was up for anything I planned: eating our way through Puglia, doing yoga in Tulum, golf-carting all over Harbour Island.
Then I became a mother. For a woman who always told me that she didn’t care whether I had children or not, she embraced grandmotherhood like a child sitting on your foot, begging to be dragged across the floor. She flew wherever I had to work so that she could take care of my daughter while I went to board meetings or conferences.
I knew how lucky I was, seeing how each of my friends experienced parenting with their own moms. When she arrived for a week’s visit, she’d clean our house, put food on the table and fresh peonies or lilies in our vases. And she did a lot of dishes. She earned the nickname “Dish Fairy” from me and my husband.
On the day she died from an aortic rupture, we had spoken about an hour earlier for the last time, agreeing to meet in New York for one of my work meetings so that she and my daughter could explore the city, and we could take her to the Eloise Tea at the Plaza together. “Yay! I’ll see you in April in New York!”
We didn’t know that was going to be our last conversation, but had we planned it, nothing could have been better. To share last words full of excitement and love, for us each to have experienced the anticipation of the next joyful adventure was just the way it should have been.
After her death, I struggled. Anyone who loses a loving partner or parent knows that there is a period where your reality feels like torture. I became what is called a motherless mother.
And the person who always had my back my whole life was gone. Motherless mothers lose the one person who wants to ensure they are being cared for so that they can care for their children.
After my grief got a little better and my son got a little older, we resumed traveling again, and we found that checking into hotels with our kids was even more soothing than before. We discovered that when service and hospitality are executed with sincerity, it can transcend the surface of common hotel interactions.
When hotel staff are genuinely helping to make our children happy, well-fed, or well-rested, we soak it up in gratitude. You don’t even have to be grieving to feel this way, of course. You just have to be a parent.
Every time we return to a clean hotel room or we open the door to see the room service cart, we smile. This is my love letter of gratitude to the hospitality industry for helping us feel, for a second, to feel mothered like the Dish Fairy is still here with us. Thank you.
- Tea for two.