EPISODE 22: CABIN FEVER
Ours is not a family of winter sportsmen. Growing up in New York City, there wasn't a lot of ice hockey during my childhood. Instead there were a lot of trips to the Lincoln Center cinemas followed by dim sum. The curse continues with our seven-year-old son. Nicholas is not exactly a lion in winter. He's actually more of a house cat, and his love of lounging has got me to reconsider a certain element of my wardrobe.
While there were various permutations of sporting goods under the tree for his cousins this past Christmas, one gift kept popping up for Nicholas - pyjamas. The first pair he opened were French blue broadcloth with navy blue piping; the second were blue and white striped with his initials monogrammed on the chest pocket. Even his three-year-old sister, Alexandra, got in on the act, racking up more pink nightgowns than dolls.
It is not as if I have been secretly hoping to raise a medallist in the luge or biathlon, but locking two adults and two small children in a Manhattan apartment weekend after weekend leads to cabin fever. As a break from the claustrophobia, we've started taking road trips. Nothing too ambitious.
"Dad, how long would it take to drive to Florida?"
"Too long, Nicholas. I've done it in 18 hours, but it wasn't pretty."
"What does 'it wasn't pretty' mean?"
At this point, my internal movie projector unspools footage of me relieving myself out the driver's side window of a vintage station wagon hurtling southward on the I-95 at 80mph as a fraternity brother minds the gas pedal. Half-eaten bags of pork rinds and crushed cans of Red White & Blue beer line the dashboard. The car smells like a felony waiting to happen.
Nicholas then breaks my reverie. "Dad?"
Our road trips these days are decidedly tamer - usually involving a Volvo and a visit to a city a few hours away. We try to mix up the schedule with one activity for the kids and one for the adults. On our most recent trip to Boston, we dragged the kids through the Mario Testino show at the Museum of Fine Arts.
Part of being a non-sporty family is that the adults discuss hotels the way other families talk legendary Super Bowl match-ups
They dragged us through the Boston Tea Party Ship & Museum. The tea party begins when a man dressed up like Sam Adams greets you at the dock. He then whips the crowd into a frenzy over the unjust taxes that King George III has been levelling upon the colonies. The straw that has broken old Sam's back is a tax that we Americans are meant to pay on the tea that has just arrived in the Eleanor, a fine vessel tied up down the gangplank.
There is something thrilling about watching your young American son running and yelling, "A pox on King George! No taxation without representation!" as he throws a bail of tea into Boston's dirty water. Nicholas is a history buff and lives for this stuff. However, my favourite part of these road trips is watching the expression on my children's faces when we step into our hotel room for the first time. Part of being a non-sporty family is that the adults discuss hotels the way other families talk legendary Super Bowl match-ups.
Me: "OK, people, five-star smackdown: Il Pellicano versus L'Oustau de Baumanière?"
My brother-in-law, without missing a beat: "Don't be an ass. That's like comparing Claridge's and The Lanesborough. It's an apples-to-bergamot comparison."
Regardless of the level of poshness, I'm still someone who gets a Beatles-having-a-pillow-fight thrill when I check into a hotel, and I love watching my kids race around trying to decide what to do first. Should we order room service and then go swimming? Or go swimming and then order room service?
Nicholas looked like a tycoon from the Roaring 1920s - monogrammed pyjamas, bathrobe and slippers. All that was missing was a tickertape machine and monocle
At The Four Seasons in Boston, the hotel offers a really nice $15 up-sell. When we returned from dinner and everyone had donned his or her new sleepwear, there was a knock at the door. "Go ahead. See who's there," my wife, Honor, said to the kids.
They opened the hotel room door to find a room service cart that had been specially retrofitted into an ice-cream sundae bar. The waiter, who was dressed like an old-fashioned soda jerk, asked, "Is there an Alexandra Brodie here?" I had forgotten that we had pre-ordered the Kid-Kation Package and was worried he had mixed our room up with the bachelorette party down the hall. Thankfully, my three-year-old was only treated to a hot fudge sundae rather than Hot Chocolate's "I Believe in Miracles" and tear-away trousers.
Our three-year-old's eyes went wide as saucers when the waiter inquired what were her favourite toppings. "More sprinkles. More spinkles," was all she could say.
For someone who has no interest in playing hockey, Nicholas threw a pretty good hip-check to move his sister out of the way once her sundae was complete. I couldn't resist either and went for a scoop of vanilla with hot fudge, nuts and maraschino cherries. After all, hadn't we burned off some calories standing up to King George earlier in the day?
As we settled into our desserts, Nicholas looked like a tycoon from the Roaring 1920s - monogrammed pyjamas, terrycloth bathrobe and bedroom slippers. All that was missing was a tickertape machine and a monocle. Meanwhile I was just in a T-shirt and shorts.
"Dad, is that what you're going to sleep in? This is a Four Seasons," he asked in-between bites of chocolate ice cream and crumbled Oreos. He had a point. For someone who puts more top-down analysis into my wardrobe than my stock portfolio, my sleepwear is a chink in my sartorial armour.
Soon though, my daughter will be old enough to register my nakedness and notice the striking resemblance between her nude father and the Michelin Man - same pneumatic build, same white-wall skin. Sadly, I'm getting to the age where pyjamas and a robe are in my future. And the way my kids like to spend their weekends, the good news is that I'll be able to wear them from Friday night to Monday morning.
To read Mr Brodie's previous columns, click here. Follow Mr Brodie on Twitter @jbrodieny