I was at a family BBQ last weekend when two of my siblings got into an argument. It was loud and reminded me of my house circa 1995 (the peak of our teenage years). I couldn't help but wonder whether my upcoming wedding would end up resembling a WWE match.
The drama sent my mom into a tailspin. Nobody likes to see their children fighting.
I wondered if it was good timing or bad that my mom and I had planned a 30-hour getaway to Ste Anne's Spa. Would she be too upset to enjoy herself or would the break from reality cheer her up? If there's anything that makes me happy, it's when everyone I love is happy, too.
I asked my mom if she wanted to postpone our trip. It was a relief that she still wanted to go. I had been looking forward to our girls trip and hoped the timing would work out okay after all.
When I really thought about it, going to Ste. Anne's in the aftermath of a family dispute seemed like a rather ironic coincidence. Twenty years ago when my three siblings and I lived at home, my parents went to Ste Anne's Spa for an overnight stay. In the middle of their trip they got a call from my brother: "Come home: we're all fighting."
My parents rushed home to sort us out. By the time they arrived, all was calm; they could have stayed and enjoyed themselves after all. That night, I felt sick with guilt. If only we could have gotten along, if only we'd behaved for another few hours, our parents could have taken their much-needed break. I've been determined ever since to make up for it.
Now was my chance, only now there was fighting again.
I had to turn things around for my mom and lift her spirits. The drive to Ste. Anne's from Toronto was easy--only one hour and 15 minutes. When we arrived, we were awed by the flowers, gardens, landscaping and old stone buildings dating back to the 1800s. Even more surprising was how relaxed everyone looked lounging around and having tea in their plush white spa robes. It felt like we'd landed on another planet.
We checked in at reception and were given a tour of the property. "Here is the spa where you can have a eucalyptus steam," our guide explained. "There's our 36-degree current pool and the 104-degree hot tub," he said, extending his hand toward the pools. "And if you look outside you can see the swimming pool and hammocks and swings."
I tried to stifle my laughter but I couldn't. I had a funny joke and it was bursting to get out. "That's great," I said, snorting with laughter. "My mom loves to swing!"
"No I don't," my mom told our guide. "I get motion sickness."
Nice recovery, I thought to myself. Our guide understood, too.
"Well if you go into the serenity room over there your daughter might not be able to tease you as much," our guide joked.
From then on my mom and I couldn't stop laughing. Everything was somehow so funny. We were like two school girls for an entire day. It was so relaxing and fun to be together. We ate lunch on the patio, explored the gardens, took a painting class together, had tea and later in the evening we had dinner. Since they invite guests to bring their own wine, I went up to the room and brought down two cans of wine I'd stashed in my bag.
"We'll just need a straw," I told our server. We giggled some more. What kind of classy ladies come to a three-course dinner with cans of wine?
At night we read our books and went to bed beside each other in a big king bed. In the morning, we biked to the gym, worked out together, returned to the spa for breakfast and read some more. Finally it was time for our spa treatments and then lunch at Ste. Anne's Bakery before returning home.
As we headed back, we no longer needed to speak about our family drama. Thoughts of any arguments had vanished. We felt relaxed, rejuvenated, and ready to plan our next little getaway.
As I write, my skin is still slick with oil from the spa. I still smell of coconut. My oil painting is framed and ready to be hung. And my mom and I are still laughing.
I'm not sure I can ever make up for what happened 20 years ago. I can't undo whatever typical aggravation comes with having a large family, but we can build new memories and experiences. And we can always laugh.