I stepped off the escalator and scanned the car rental counters in search of my parents. They’d flown up from Sarasota and I’d flown down from Philadelphia, happily meeting in Atlanta to help celebrate Anders’s birthday. I spotted my mother leaning against a wall and made my way over.
“It’s ten dollars more if I’m added as a driver,” my mom said.
“Um, okay. I’ll get it,” I replied somewhat confused as I reached for my wallet.
“It has nothing to do with money and everything to do with principle,” she defended.
“Well, based on this so-called principle, any and all antique shopping you want to do this weekend will involve you hitchhiking to and from,” I countered while extending a crumpled ten dollar bill.
“Good point and put your money away. You’re offending me.”
After retrieving the rental and loading everything in the back, I hopped behind the wheel and steered us onto the highway. The sun dipped below the horizon as I set the radio to something country. Around half an hour later, I pulled up in front of the hotel my parents had booked for their visit. And exactly one hour later, we piled back in the car.
“Now what?” I asked as I turned the key in the ignition.
“Well, I’m not staying here. On Monday they quoted me $89 a night for a room with a glass shower door and tonight the price is suddenly $239 a night? That’s a complete bait-and-switch and I refuse to fall for it. If they won’t honor the rate, I’ll go elsewhere.”
“Can I just take you to the Ritz or the Hyatt? My treat,” I offered as I flipped my Swatch over to confirm the time. It was late, I was tired and I smelled like airplane. The last thing I wanted to do was go on a grand tour of Buckhead’s three star hotels.
“Just drive over to the Springhill Suites,” my mom stubbornly insisted.
I turned out of the parking lot and headed a mile up the road. When I pulled in front of the hotel, my mom went into the lobby. My dad and I lingered in the idling car and placed bets on the verdict. Fifteen minutes later, my mother quietly crawled into the backseat and closed the door.
“It’s $119 a night. And I was the only white person in there,” she said, whispering the word white the same way a Jewish person whispers the word cancer or divorce.
“Sounds great - I'll get your bags,” I said as I opened the car door and darted for the trunk.
With everything plopped down in a pile, I kissed my parents goodnight and got back in the car. When I glanced in the rear view mirror, I could see my mother still standing there sporting a look of terror. The same don't-leave-me-here expression reserved for small children on the first day of school. I shifted the car into drive and peeled out before either of my parents could change their minds.
“I don’t know what happened to mom and dad but they’re cheap as all fark,” I said to Leslie when I got to her house. “They went from Relais Chateaux and Le Bec Fin to Hampton Inn and Chick-Fil-A. I just don’t get it. Absolutely nothing in the middle,” I said.
“Yeah, I know, though don’t go knockin’ Chick-Fil-A,” Leslie mumbled as she rolled over and went back to sleep.
The following morning, I retrieved my parents at the hotel and relocated the three of us to Chuck E. Cheese. Olivia wasn't feeling 100% so she lingered on my lap away from the activity. Leslie tended to Anders and my parents flitted between the two kids.
“I love Connie’s bag,” my mom said as she slipped into the booth next to me and Olivia.
“Prada. Spring collection. And easily $1,200. You would never, and I mean never spend that kind of money on a handbag,” I taunted.
“Never say never. It isn’t that I couldn’t. It’s just that I choose not to,” my mother defended as she twirled the pearl dangling off her David Yurman earring.
“Oh yeah? How's that choice of hotel working out for you?” I asked as Olivia nuzzled closer to me.
My mother squinted her eyes and glared a look of death before formulating a response.
“I’m choosing to ignore your last comment,” she said before scooting out of the booth and drifting back to the party.