(Originally appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on 3/21/07)
This March will be one of the first spring breaks that my daughter and I won’t spend together. She graduated from college this past November and, sadly, her job does not allow for spring break.
Naturally our spring breaks together were fairly sedate affairs, usually spent in sunny climes – pretty much the opposite of Girls Gone Wild. But the most sedate of all our trips, and the most memorable, upon reflection, was one a few years ago when we both got the flu. We had chosen a family-oriented tennis resort with a fitness center and spa, nestled near South Mountain Park in Phoenix, Arizona. With visions of sun (protected by heavy-duty sunscreen), spa treatments, fitness classes, and hikes through the desert, we left the frigid winter behind.
At that time I was well aware that this could be the last spring break she deigned to travel with me. Even as we settled into our routine in Phoenix, we went our separate ways – she in the direct sun, me nearer the shade trees. I took a tennis lesson, she went to the outlet mall. We checked in with each other at meal times, just to say hi and compare itineraries.
Then came Black Tuesday. About midway through the afternoon, I wandered over to her lounge chair by the pool.
“I’m not feeling so well. I think I’ll go back to the room and take a nap.” In truth, I was achy all over, had a piercing headache, and my throat was beginning to feel scratchy.
“That’s weird,” she said. “I feel kind of sick too.”
Fast forward to later that evening, both of us huddled under blankets, sipping gingerly on bottled water for sustenance. No food was able to pass our lips and stay put.
We alternately shivered and sweated, and swallowed painfully. We turned on the television and in our state of feverish delirium watched Meet the Parents, which turned out to be the perfect flu movie. Even in our state of pain, we managed a few hoarse chuckles.
“We’re having some fun now,” I joked as I inched my way to bed after our exciting evening sequestered in the room. Outside the room the palm fronds rustled, and the scent of orange blossoms wafted enticingly by.
The next two days (our last two days of vacation) were spent in much the same state of mutual misery. We read every magazine in the hotel gift shop, swapping celebrity gossip, and showing each other bad fashions. We discussed the Oscar stars and their fashions in great detail, as if we were writing dissertation on the subject. We ratcheted up the hotel bill watching pay-per-view movies while wrapped in blankets. We shared crackers and apple slices and sipped on juice. My daughter coughed, I coughed louder. We walked around the room with no make-up, hair lank and sweaty, tissues hanging out of one nostril. (Don’t I look pretty? Gorgeous… You are definitely a “Glamour Don’t”). We watched fellow happy-go-lucky, healthy vacationers outside our patio (the furthest we could venture) and hated them. Charging up the fairways in their loud plaid shorts, jogging along smiling in the sun, on their way to the pool for Margaritas and a dip in the hot tub. We watched them through feverish eyes and ate another Saltine. We complained about everything that hurt. My teeth hurt. Oh yeah, well my fingernails hurt…
We discussed the Stephen King-like theory that perhaps we had been booked into a room where bad germs kept perpetuating themselves from one group of unsuspecting vacationers to the next. After all, we were using the hotel blankets from the closet, and you know they don’t clean those bedspreads in between. I told my daughter about Howard Hughes and the germ phobia that caused him to bring his own linens with him when he traveled. We agreed it was an obsession that had its merits.
Leaving the resort we were as pale as when we had arrived and our throats were still raw and painful. We burrowed into our own beds for the weekend and slowly recovered.
I just called her because I was thinking ahead to my upcoming spring break. It will be just my husband and me, and I’m looking forward to it. (My husband and I are in education so we still have a spring break!) “Remember that nightmare spring break we had when we both got the flu?” I asked her.
“Oh, mom,” she answered, “It really wasn’t so bad…”
And the strange thing is, it really wasn’t.