The grocery store cashier asked me if I had plans for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday. It was the third time the question had been posed to me that day, and my unexpected answer brought a smile to each person I told. My husband and I were celebrating 21 years of marriage on July 5, and we were heading uptown for a staycation.
But this wasn’t a new idea. We did it last year, too.
We celebrated 20 years of marriage in 2018. With no one to watch our three boys, we decided that rather than doing nothing, we’d plan a staycation for the entire family. I booked two nights and two connecting rooms at an uptown hotel through Priceline’s Name Your Own Price — I love the gamble.
We headed uptown on the lightrail for an early check-in. The biggest draw for us was the hotel’s rooftop pool. We expected to have the space largely to ourselves. Afterall, it was Charlotte during the Fourth of July holiday — who possibly would vacation in uptown?
We were wrong. Our jaws dropped when we saw the Vegas-like scene in front of us. People were everywhere. Bartenders from the poolside bar served a packed crowd, and almost every lounge chair and table was filled. Music played from the DJ’s tent while his film crew recorded the happenings. Adding to the action, an enormous screen on top of the bar was tuned to sports.
We forged ahead with our own motley crew — three boisterous boys (one in a wheelchair) and two weather-worn parents. We threw our stuff on one open chair, and our two younger boys jumped in the pool. My husband, Ryan, grabbed drinks from the bar (because we needed them to get through this) and joined the fun in the pool. We met several people, and our initial wariness wore off quickly (it could have been the cocktails). Surprisingly, several other guests were from Charlotte and doing the staycation thing. Another family was checking out Charlotte for a possible move.
Our oldest son, Ben, loves the water because it gives him a freedom he doesn’t have on land — there, he can walk. On this day, however, the party scene mesmerized him. While Ryan and I socialized in the pool, Ben sat in his wheelchair, taking in everything, yet refusing to join us. In hindsight, it may be that he has a sixth sense about things.
That night, we headed to Romare Bearden Park for the fireworks display. One man helped free up space in a better viewing area for Ben —he actually created a path for us. The ease of walking to the fireworks was unbelievable. And knowing we didn’t have to fight the crowds to get home delighted us. We had big plans for an evening swim. But when we returned, the pool was closed for maintenance.
The next morning, the pool was still closed, and the hotel gave us breakfast vouchers to make up for our disappointment. So we became tourists in our own town. We rented a scooter in Romare Bearden Park and took turns riding it. We visited Discovery Place and the Wells Fargo Museum.
The pool was still closed when we returned, so we relaxed in our rooms. After the kids were settled, Ryan and I decided to sneak up to the pool with drinks to quietly celebrate our 20 years of marriage. The night was beautiful, and we had the place to ourselves. It was perfect for 15 minutes. Then our youngest son, Sean, called screaming into the phone, “My eyes are burning.”
When we returned to the hotel room, Sean had the telltale signs of pink eye — yellow discharge and redness around the eyes (gross, right?). My brain put it all together: the closed pool and the cloudy water I’d chosen not to worry about the day before screamed conjunctivitis. We rallied as Ryan hopped the train to get the eye drops we keep at home for these emergencies.
The hotel staff gave us a voucher for a free night and several restaurant vouchers to make up for the pool situation. They handled it well.
This year: Why not again?
This year, with our 21st anniversary looming and a free hotel night voucher burning a hole in my pocket, we decided to do it again — this time for just one night.
We hit the pool (Ben went in this time) and walked through First Ward Park. We watched “Finding Bigfoot” on Animal Planet in the room. We ate slices from Fuel Pizza on The Green after the fireworks.
As kids do, Sean asked me an impossible question on the way home on the light rail: “Mom, would you and Dad have more fun if you went alone?”
I replied, “It would be a different kind of fun.”