The Playroom: The traveler

Author: Maraya Steadman '89, '90MBA

Maraya Steadman

Today is the first day of our family vacation in Texas. I’m super cranky. I could blame it on flying by myself with three kids, renting a car, getting lost, finally finding the hotel, then getting everyone fed, bathed and in front of a television. But that’s not it. I am not a good traveler.

I’m just not. I don’t like flying or packing or renting cars or being away from my dog and my washing machine. And I don’t like hotels. Specifically I don’t like wall-to-wall carpeting, and it’s everywhere here. Synthetic fibers and dust and bugs and stuff you can see under black lights I don’t want to know about.

Sitting in the hotel being cranky, I think about my husband, who had to work today. I miss him — and not just because I flew here by myself with three kids. I know that he would tell me to lighten up and have some fun.

He’s right. So, I decide to venture outside to the hotel playground. My kids need to run around, and I am tired of being in the room with all that carpeting.

As we walk out on to the hotel’s back patio, my son throws open the double doors, shouts “Hello, People!” and takes off. My pre-teen makes some disparaging remark about what a weirdo he is, and the 4-year-old skips along, very cute, holding my hand.

I sit on a bench, and I watch my older children play a creative interpretation of volleyball, together, laughing, not fighting. My younger daughter is close by me, making snow angels in the sand.

The sun sets, the children are playing, and we aren’t worried about homework or hockey practice or what time we need to get to bed. The weather is warm so we take off our shoes, meet some folks from D.C., worry about mosquitoes. And I think about Texas.

When my husband was in law school he had a summer job in Houston. We said good-bye at the airport, and I flew to my job in London. He told me that letting me go was the hardest thing he had ever done. The next day he bought my engagement ring. After we were married, that first year, my husband’s job was still in Texas. I was working in Chicago, and I would fly to see him on the weekends.

This night, this weather, reminds me of that first year of our marriage, the newness, the reality and going out to dinner with my husband on Saturday nights. Our used Jeep, the law school debts, the cartoon strips taped to the wall of my husband’s small office. Our new puppy, vodka tonics, second-hand furniture, and the affordable one-bedroom apartment we couldn’t afford. The one with the white walls and all that wall-to-wall beige carpeting.

Soon my daughters are sitting beside me and it is so dark I can hardly see my son playing. I decide it is time to go. I will never be a good traveler, but I do like to go to places I have been before and watch my children play.

Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children. Her website is Email her at