Staying with us in Harlem is a lot like an all inclusive vacation: fresh food is made and served 3 times a day, a bed by the window, activities that occupy your body, mind and soul, you are always surrounded by people and chatter, you down strong cocktails to finish the day… Staying with us is just like that….Almost.
About a month ago, DH and I looked at each other and silently agreed. We needed help bad, real bad. The whole family had been sick for what seemed like eternity. We got sick one after the other, all together, on top of each other, and again one after the other. Every night was a game of musical chair. The kids were rotating between their beds, our bed, the sofa, the floor etc. A musical chair with always the same losers: DH and I. Our ‘A team‘ formula was no longer functioning because nobody has been visiting us since October. In other words, our ‘secret weapon X’ had gone MIA and this has jeopardized our febrile equilibrium. We thus decided to do what first year college students do when their dorm fridge is empty: call the family, play the nervous breakdown card and beg for help. We tried every single person until one poor soul accepted. My older sister Sam finally gave in, cancelled her trip to Greece and said: ‘hang in there. I am coming’. She then embarked on a fitness program to prepare for her visit…True story. She went to bed every night at 10pm, exercised to raise her energy levels, ate properly, psyched herself about how her vacation was going to be anything but relaxing. She was ready, man, super ready.
4 days after her arrival, she said, her eyes darkened by the lack of sleep:’I am not going to have children’. We tend to have this effect on people. Here is what happens almost every time. People come and people talk…a lot. And I hear everything. Everything. While feeding L or sorting my whites and my colors or trying to update my Linked profile I listen to the darkest secret, the wildest fantasy, the most shameful experience, the proudest moment etc. They look at our messy life, talk and end up making potentially life altering decisions such as:
– ‘I am going to find myself a woman. Enough of this bachelor life’. Benjamin (39), whom I have never seen dating a woman or a man in the last 20 years.
-‘I am going to learn playing the guitar.’ Jacques (68) aka my father in law, who already counts among his hobbies clay shooting, staring at a white canvas on his easel, learning English, fixing his kids’ lives and cast crafting.
– ‘I am falling in love with this guy and I am going to commit.’ Daniel (39) who has been so far a partially closeted gay man sleeping around in every major European big cities.
-‘I am going to quit my job.’ Valerie (38) who has been with the same company for 13 years because they kept making it harder and harder for her to leave. She is one of those few HiPos (High Potential). You don’t know what this is, me neither. Never been called an HiPo; I have been called a WaPo (Wasted Potential) many, many times though.
– ‘I am going to cook for my mum’. Alice (17) who did not know how to boil pasta, make a French vinaigrette or do the laundry before staying with us.
Thinking about it, our home is not a traditional all-inclusive resort. It offers something like those Gen Y (also known as the Millennials) all-inclusive vacations where people go overseas to sort out garbage in wastelands or rebuild hurricane devastated zones. Yes, it is exactly like that in fact. You spend your own money, you work hard, you get your hands dirty, you have epiphanies and you go home changed. Maybe I should start a social business.