By Diane Haynes Woodburn
I’m a calm person. Party for 150 friends? No problem. Earthquake? Doesn’t rattle me. Jaguar burns up? Did that. Family dog piddles on the priceless Persian rug? Not happy, but the dog is still alive. As long as everyone is accounted for and healthy, I’m good.
Then my husband and I decide to attend a friend’s wedding in New Mexico. We’ll gather at a resort for two days of festivities—with people we don’t know.
At work, we are in a race to meet deadlines, and I am close to sleepless. “You should pack,” Jamie says on Tuesday. “Soon as the issue is finished,” I reply. “You should pack,” he urges on Wednesday. By Thursday, suggestion has turned to warning. “We’re leaving in an hour and half.”
Thirty minutes later, I pack. Does this fit? I don’t know; I’ll take it anyway. Will it be cold? Do I need real shoes? Item after questionable item I throw into the bag. “We’re leaving now,” Jamie says.
Guilt tempers his impatience. Jamie knows I hate night flights. Weeks earlier, he announced—or rather, stuttered—that the only flight he’d been able to get was a redeye. Seeing my stricken look, he added, “It won’t be that bad. We’ll get into Denver in the morning, rent a car and drive to New Mexico.” “How long is the drive?” “Oh, pretty close.”
After twelve hours of travel, including a three-hour layover, we arrive at Denver Airport. Jamie sleeps on planes. He is ready to roll. I am blurry eyed and dazed. As we wait for our rental car, I type our destination into my iPad. “It says it’s a seven-hour drive!” “Hmmm,” says Jamie.
As we drive through aspen-covered mountains, I doze, dreaming of a hot shower. Our destination is a hot-spring resort; I imagine a luxurious room with a huge tub, maybe a waterfall shower.
Around the hotel, a red-rock landscape rises in stoic grandeur. The lobby greets us with the sound of falling water and the scent of incense. Guests meander in cozy robes. “Here is your key,” say the attendant, looking vaguely familiar. “You are in the old hotel, across the parking lot.”
We lug our bags to the old hotel and open the door to our room. A double bed is the only clue that it isn’t a nun’s cell. Okay. Simple is good. A shower and I’ll be fine. I open the bathroom door . . . and fingers of panic tickle the edges of my calm. “There’s no shower!” I gulp. “No tub!”
“You don’t understand,” I say, trying desperately not to reach across the front desk to choke the attendant, whom I now recognize as a ringer for Psycho’s Norman Bates. “There is no shower in our room!”
“You are welcome to shower in the women’s locker room.” “I don’t want to use a locker room,” I reply, my voice beginning to crack. The robe-clad people look at me askance. The incense is making me sneeze, and my eyes are running. I look and sound like a crazy woman. “Sorry,” says Norman. “All our rooms with baths are sold out.” I shuffle back to my room in defeat.
At dinner, one of the aunties announces a women’s ring ceremony. I go, and find myself seated next to the bride. As the woman who presides over the ceremony passes the simple gold band to each of us, she tells us to express our wishes for the groom. The ring travels from woman to woman, each of us giving our heartfelt wishes. Then the ring goes in the opposite direction. This time we give our wishes for the bride. I pass the ring back to her, knowing this sharing of love is an incredible beginning.
I think of family and friends, and of the privilege I have had over the last fifteen years of bringing Maui’s stories to you. As we begin 2011, I wish all of us the luxury of love, friendship, and support. Even if you get the room without a shower, life holds a bounty of beauty for all of us.