I have always thought that the airport is perfect for people watching. When I was younger and only needed one small carry on for travel, unlike now where I need a PODS storage unit for most outings, I would watch families traveling as I sat waiting for my flight. I always felt families were at their most humorous moments at an airport. Children whining, parents yelling, bags being dropped, items left behind, ice cream on travel clothes, gum stuck in hair. I haven’t traveled on a plane since before Ellie was born, but we did take Ellie on her first hotel vacation last weekend. And I learned, much like an airport, even a touristy stretch of sidewalk can produce those glorious travel moments that I use to find so amusing as a college student. I suppose I deserved such a moment, if only to see the true meaning behind those scenes. My mom was in town while Travis went to visit family so to substantiate my itch to travel too we decided to load up the girls and way more luggage than necessary for a one night stay and went to Niagara Falls. We arrived at the hotel and after several jumps on the hotel bed and begrudgingly putting the girls in their standard winter ensemble of 6 layers, we set off to see the falls. After taking pictures and admiring the falls we decided to head to Build-a-Bear. I had been telling Mya about Build-a-Bear since we planned the trip. It was to be the highlight of her trip and I could see her excitement grow as we trudged up the very steep hill to the store. Everything was going really well until, once at the top of the hill, I realized the store had closed. I took a moment to consider how to proceed: to lie, to think of a diversion, to fake an illness in order to go home. A solution hadn’t yet occurred to me when Mya asked which way we should go, so I blurted out the truth. At this moment it was as though a vacation bomb had exploded, I almost saw a dust of smoke erupt from under our feet. The tears started slowly and then grew to a sound I can imagine could be heard from passing cars. Mya then somehow lost the ability to walk and collapsed on the edge of the stroller Ellie was in. Feeling the stress from Mya’s wailing body, Ellie began to sense something was awry and made one of the saddest faces I’ve seen. To escape the scene of the crime I pushed both girls in the stroller down a very steep hill. At one point Mya started crying harder, almost screaming, my mother and I stopped to check on her trying to figure out if she was okay. Through tears and screams she told us she was scared, at which point I realized we had been standing infront of a very scary haunted house for five minutes. We trudged on towards the Rainforest Cafe, thinking it was the solution to the trip going terribly wrong. I don’t know if you have been to a rainforest cafe before but it is a unique experience. The entire restaurant is built to look like a rainforest. Large trees, waterfalls, fake dancing gorillas and snakes, mock thunderstorms every 30 minutes. Once at our table, I looked at Mya and Ellie, who were completely frozen in fear. I had actually ordered an adult beverage as we were being seated so I felt leaving at that moment was not an option. After a tour of the restaurant for Mya and a seat next to the waterfall for Ellie both girls appeared to calm down, until the mock thunderstorm which sent Mya into hysterics again. I won’t get into details but there was another incident at the end of dinner that required an entire package of baby wipes and a new outfit for Ellie. As we returned to the hotel room with new toys from the Rainforest Cafe gift shop (bribery seemed appropriate) all we could do was laugh. And as we laughed so did the girls, and then Mya started jumping on the hotel bed and laughing hysterically, and both girls had a bubble bath, and we looked at the beautiful falls lit up from our hotel window, and we played on the bed, and we watched a movie, and right before bed, Mya put both her hands on my cheeks and said, “mommy, I love vacation,” and then fell asleep on my chest, something she hasn’t done in a very long time. I imagine the scene of us walking down that hill, with crying children and bewildered adults, made a few people laugh, ones who were feeling reinforcement for not wanting children, others like myself, so many years ago, poking fun at families in high stress travel situations, or those who had once been there before. Moments of highs and lows though, are the truths behind families and life. I imagine I’ll laugh about this trip for a long time, but I think many years from now it will all fuse together, the good and the bad, into one amazing memory, and I’ll feel a little sparkle in my heart at the thought of laughing with my mom and Mya with her hands on my cheeks and Ellie bouncing on her first hotel bed.