Woke to a European style B&B breakfast experience–fresh ground and fresh brewed espresso (hot-diluted to cafe Americano), home-baked bread with homemade marmalade and country salted butter, and fresh fruit. Do we really have to leave? Our New Haven friends are so good to us and it is a long process to extract our children and ourselves and say goodbye.
We lumbered down the road to Shelton, CT, which is just up the road from Trumbull, CT, where Dave grew up. A little hiccup in the plan as we checked into the Marriott Residence–because of fire regulations, most hotels will not let you sleep more than 5 people in a room, even if it is a 2-bedroom suite and 3 are in pack-and-plays. So when we booked through the national reservation center we were under the impression we were getting two adjoining 2-bedroom suites. When we got there we were informed this was not possible as each two-bedroom suite was located in a separate building, and none connected to any other adjoining rooms.
Dave was in talking to the desk clerk while Robyn stayed in the car with the children, and we communicated by walkie-talkie as Dave discussed options with the clerk. After spending several minutes of trying to figure out alternative options and explaining that if we put one adult and 4 children in each of two rooms, that would still leave one child in a room solo–not going to work. Now, after reading “Spirit to Serve: Marriott’s Way”, while studying customer service models, Dave is a big fan of the Marriott chain. But this was kind of a startling setback.
Enter ‘protective Mama bear’. Robyn tells Dave on the walkie-talkie, fully audible to the desk clerk and now manager also, “OK, you come on out and I am coming in”. Dave shrugs an empathetic “I am sorry, I tried…glad I am not you right now” shrug to the ladies behind the desk as he exchanges places with Robyn. Within 5 minutes Robyn comes back out the the car with a card-key for the upgrade to the ‘Penthouse suite’. Problem solved, once again proving that women can really communicate.
So we unload into the suite, which is roomy enough for all of us (thank you, Mr. Marriott), drop off our bags and gear, and head out to lunch at a restaurant nearby with a dear friend of Dave’s from high school, whom he has not seen in about 25 years. What a beautiful family they are, although the oldest daughter is away traveling in Costa Rica (can you blame her?).
On the way back to the hotel, we nearly run into Dave’s buddy Tommy’s Mom who is backing out of her driveway. She has never seen our van so she’s looking at us like we are about to stick her up. Dave jumps out of the van and runs up to her window (at this point she’s looking a bit frightened until he’s about 5 feet away) when she recognizes him and jumps out of the car to give him a hug. At this point Mr. P. recognizes the hub-bub in the driveway and comes out to join the fun and inspect ‘the wheels’. He was very impressed with the E350 chassis. But we are running late for an appointment in Fairfield, and have to move on.
We are due to meet Father Larry (now Monseigneur Larry) at St. Pius in Fairfield at 4:30PM, and we’re running a little late. Fortunately, he is also running a little late so we have time to drive around Fairfield a little bit and Dave gets to tell the children about how he went to high school at Fairfield Prep just down the road, and how when he was in high school Msgr. Larry was a newly ordained priest who was running the St. Teresa’s youth group in Trumbull. Fr. Larry was a good advisor for Dave and his brother Steve, and he helped teach them wisdom and steer them clear of trouble (mostly) during those formative years.
Our meeting with Msgr. Larry is short but good, with updates from both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. The kids love the cookies they always get when visiting the rectory, and they are absolutely in love with Fr. Larry’s dog. Even little Robert, who usually shies away from animals, is captivated by this old, patient, friendly dog.
We top off the evening with dinner back in Trumbull with Dave’s high school buddy, Tommy, and his family. Dave and Tommy both were smart enough to go South after college and marry Virginia girls. Robyn and Teresa get along like sisters, and you’d think they knew each other longer than Dave and Tommy. Tommy and Teresa have 4 children, roughly matching the ages of 4 of ours, but all 13 play along with each other incredibly well. It was a hoot when Robyn and Teresa both had the first-borns around the same time, and named them after Dave and Tommy. So Teresa introduced the babies to each other: ”Little Dave, meet Little Tommy. Little Tommy, meet Little Dave”; we knew it would be an historic event. It was sort of like seeing the most recent Star Trek Movie when young Captain Kirk meets young Mr. Spock.
1) Most states limit hotels to 5 people per room due to fire codes. B&B’s are usually more flexible or have a better way to accommodate large families.
2) If you have to stay in a hotel, choose a customer-friendly place like the Marriott chain. That way, if there is a mix-up, they will understand customer service and find a way to make you happy.
3) Sometimes a sock drawer or empty closet bottom with good padding can serve as a wonderful makeshift bed for little ones.