Creating Comfort by Maureen Eich VanWalleghan

Today, I am a bit under the weather while traveling in North Dakota for a visit to see my husband. While laying in bed this afternoon I realized that a bigger blog post I was close to finishing would not be done and instead I thought maybe I should write about what was banging around in my head from this trip: the invisible commodity of comfort. Something moms work to create—particularly while traveling—and which when provided for, is completely invisible.

Creating comfort involves considering the needs of every member of the travel party and trying to find intersections to meet those needs each day of a trip. For me, for this trip, that task involved a daughter who is on winter break, a husband who is tired from working for six weeks straight and living in his truck, and me, the mom who is thinking about our life goals and how we are going to achieve them.

Comfort played out in the following ways: cooking a bunch of favorite meals that could be microwaved at a hotel, planning some fun activities for my daughter to see, keeping the days simple and short for my husband who is tired, and trying to arrange private talk time for me with my husband about a number of important things that are not possible to discuss on an intermittent cell line while he is driving for work.

Hotel, hotel, hotel: this was the key element that would dictate how things would go. And for some reason my husband was resisting making reservations in advance. Ergo, we arrived in Williston and as a walk-in he got us a room for Monday night. My daughter got to sleep with him in the truck and I had the night alone. Check: everyone is happy—my daughter really wanted to see and experience what my husband’s life is like when he is away from us. I got a moment of privacy. Husband got tons of gooey love and not much sleep. We ate meatloaf as a snack that night.

Tuesday the discussion of where we were headed next had change (again) for my husband. I originally had thought that Rapid City, SD would be fun because we could see Mt. Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Monument, but a five-hour drive one way would greatly impact our relaxation. So I checked out Dickinson and had found some places to visit. North Dakota is a seasonal tourist area; most everything is closed this time of year. We had one business stop on the way to Dickinson, a two-hour drive. My plan was to figure out the hotel on the drive. I said it would take at least an hour or more to do this. My husband proceeded to find a room and paid online—with a flourish and said I was embellishing about how long that would take. He was—can I say—quite proud of himself. I will admit there was some arguing because in the moment I could not put my finger on what I was looking for in a hotel room and I was driving on unfamiliar roads with a bit of weather.

We arrive and the room is not bad or dirty, but the hotel is not quite what we needed. First indicator: the 6’3’’ husband says the bed is kind of short. Yup, he got us two full mattresses instead of queen size beds. I ask about the free breakfast. Whoops, no free breakfast, my meal planning has hit a bump. (Because he eats out most of the time he is away, he really relishes a home cooked meal. About eight hours of cooking his favorite foods happened before we left on Saturday.) The next morning I go to take a shower in the handicapped bathroom and find the shower-head is at sitting height. Daughter makes a quick solve and suggests that the attached shower-head can be moved. Yeah!! Mom is happier.

Tuesday, we head to the museums: a little local museum, antique farm equipment museum, and a dinosaur museum. Only the little local museum was open even though I had checked both Trip Advisor and Google, the other two were closed—lesson learned. Not a total bust: my daughter got to write with a quill pen, which was her highlight. In my mind I am thinking pool time now and maybe a drive to see some very large scrap metal outdoor sculpture that I had discovered at the museum.

While driving I now call the Buffalo Museum in Jamestown to make sure that it’s really open for our Wednesday excursion. Get back to the hotel, no pool, so much for the private conversation with the husband. We eat a spaghetti dinner, then during the night I get very sick. Most likely it was all the Girl Scout Thin Mints I ate, which I cannot have.

This trip will definitely be remembered. In the TMI category: this morning while I was trapped on the toilet with the ice bucket, my husband was taking something out of the very low microwave and my daughter opened a cabinet over his head. He stood up and gave himself a nasty gash on the top of his head, my daughter starts crying hysterically, I throw up and then in the middle of all that: a knock at the door with a sweet voice saying “room service.” I just can’t make this stuff up—too funny and the perfect embodiment of this trip.

Husband and daughter went to Jamestown today and I stayed in bed, pondering the situation between snippets of sleep and visiting the bathroom and drinking Gatorade. Okay, here’s what I am not saying: I was immensely irritated and my husband kept saying “stop complaining we can’t change the situation.” I want him to apologize and say that he should have let me take care of the hotel and that I was not embellishing about how much time it takes to manage all these types of details. It really does take energy and time to make comfort!!!! He sort of did apologize.

Here’s why am writing about this: so much of motherhood and wifehood falls into the invisible. My husband has no idea how much time it takes to plan anything and really meet the needs of everyone involved. The truth is when everyone is happy, comfortable, and having fun it all seems so easy. Depending on the trip or situation—who must be considered changes: maybe an older son, maybe grandparents, maybe visiting friends, whoever—each trip or activity is unique. What was frustrating—in the moment of trying to explain why it would take me an hour or more of time to find the right hotel—was I couldn’t put my finger on this notion of comfort. I couldn’t say what the invisible thing was that I was doing. Now I am can.

I am the master for my family in the creation of comfort.

And you are too…

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