I think I've finally lived long enough to become an embarrassment to my children. Not the kind of embarrassment that every child suffers when they hit thirteen and never want to be seen in public with you. At that age, it is the concept of being with a parent that's so awful, not necessarily the parent herself.
The kind of humiliation I'm referring to occurs when the parent reaches a certain age and his or her unique personality traits suddenly lose their charm and become alarming eccentricities that require explanation, usually accompanied by an eye roll and a huge sigh. At this point, it is no longer the concept of a parent that afflicts the child, but an acute, terrifying awareness that the parent really is a dork after all.
One of the treats of this year's holiday, besides having both of my daughters and my son-in-law in town, was attending a family brunch at a tres swank hotel, hosted by my younger daughter and her husband.
Several years ago, before marriage or careers took my girls to far flung spots around the world, the three of us enjoyed an opulent Easter brunch at the Four Seasons. Since my appearance at a house of worship has been limited to marriages, funerals, christenings and several years of driving my kids to Sunday school, any religious holiday experience was replaced long ago by platters of food.
At the end of that long ago brunch, I thought I had been to the mountaintop of culinary extravaganzas, between the array of delicious gourmet dishes we consumed, and the emptiness of my wallet afterward. In fact, until this Christmas, I thought nothing could ever top that Easter feast.
But I'd never had a holiday brunch at Chicago's latest fancy pants hotel, the one with a name that I can never remember. The Proscenium? No. The Pendulum? Nope. The Pandemonium? Nah. The Penultimate? Not likely. The Prodigal, the Prognosticator, the Pasturizer? No. No. And no.
THE PENINSULA, dammit.
Ever since this Hong Kong-based luxury hotel dared to open a Chicago location, smack dab in the middle of Hyatt's home turf, I've heard nothing but wonderful stories about what a truly lovely place it is -- from its rooms and its spa, to its restaurants, and most of all, its service.
Now I was going to go there for a Christmas brunch. Hot diggity dog.
The morning of the food fest, I loaded up the car with gifts, and packed an overnight bag, since I was staying downtown with family until the next day. My plan was to get to the hotel a little early and change, so I wouldn't have to drive all dressed up and worry about ruining my shoes or my outfit in the dirty, slushy snow. Especially since I'd given my pretend chauffeur the day off.
With my clothes for the brunch safely packed, I dressed in polar fleece and sensible shoes for my ride downtown, a fashion statement more suited to driving a Zamboni than for going to a well appointed hotel with telephones AND TVs in the bathrooms. Not to mention that I would be pulling up to the curb in a high mileage, unwashed Jeep Cherokee, covered from bumper to bumper with salt streaks -- a vehicle some people [can you spell REMO?] have referred to as a piece of shinola.
Truthfully, I hadn't given any thought to the effect of my arrival at the hotel. I was mostly concerned with not being late. Kudos to the doorman, who didn't bat an eye when he saw the well worn Jeep on its final approach, coming in for a landing in front of a pearly white Mercedes and behind a something so sleek and new I didn't recognize it.
I might have looked like I just finished shoveling a driveway, but as far as the doorman was concerned, I would be treated like the Queen of England. because I was coming to his hotel. I called my younger daughter to tell her I had arrived, while the doorman started loading up a cart with a selection of items from my vehicle, being careful not to let the spare tire fall out when he opened the way back. He even laughed heartily -- ha ha ha -- at my half joking suggestion to detail the car while I was at lunch.
My daughter, whom I hadn't seen in a year, came out to get me, looking absolutely gorgeous. After we hugged and kissed, I noticed that the doorman became more formal with me, since she actually looked the way a guest at the hotel is supposed to look. I came to the realization that between the rode-hard-and-put-up-wet auto and my industrial strength clothes, I was only one Siamese cat short of becoming a family oddball. My daughter whisked me inside, since I was as anxious as anyone to change into something a tad less K.D. Lang.
Brunch was superb, I never wanted to stop eating. In fact, I was one thin wafer away from a possible Monty Python moment, when I finally called it quits.
I got to the table about fifteen minutes after everyone else, looking more female than lumberjack for a change. In the center of the room was an enormous two story Christmas tree, circled by a staggering buffet that included seafood, rack of lamb, roast beef, ham, roast turkey, made to order omelets, lobster bisque, all kinds of sushi, chestnut and other dressings, mashed and other potatoes, roasted Brussell sprouts with bacon and other vegetables, plus indescribable desserts. Really. I can't describe them. Plus a server who filled our glasses and cleared our plates with great flourish and a pleasant smile.
After three hours of eating and a couple of more exchanging gifts, we planned to take in a Christmas movie, but opted for a Christmas nap, which extended through to the following morning in my case.
The next day, after a less extensive, but still tasty lunchtime repast, it was time to bring the Jeep out in public once again for my ride home, to rest up some more before the next gathering in a couple of days. I was back in my Zamboni outfit for the cold and snowy drive.
The Jeep arrived at the front of the hotel, sounding like a bird was chirping in the engine. Oh great, call attention to yourself. The parking attendant got out to hold the door for me looking at the ground. For some reason, he couldn't look me in the eye. Was he wondering whether I had cats?
I handed him a $5 tip, which I consider the universal sign for Okay, it's time to close the door. But he just took the money from me and stood there continuing to hold the the door open, until he got money from my son-in-law, too. Aha, an entrepreneur.
Meanwhile the doorman, a different one, opened the way back to load my stuff. My daughter was there to make sure the spare tire didn't roll out and I could hear them laughing about the dangers of opening the hatch on my car.
I wonder how much kitty litter I can fit in there.