Limbo Has a Buffet, and Barbecue on Tuesdays

Spending J Term at home in a Marriott.

I drove by my old house once. That was a luxury I felt I could allow myself. I rolled past the driveway in my beat up Suburban and peered in. The house appeared to be basically the same, but it seemed as if my family had already been forgotten. I didn’t linger—I knew the new, sole tenant would not like to see me staring—I pressed the pedal and roared on my way.

As we unloaded our cars into the Marriott Hotel that would be our home for the interim, I asked my parents if we could have waited to move until after I was done with break. I knew the answer was going to be a definitive “no,” but I felt justified in asking. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to living out of a hotel for my few weeks away from school. My mom surveyed our temporary home, “Well, at least after a month in here the new house will feel huge,”  she concluded as the rest of us piled our belongings on the sidewalk.

The place was certainly small, and I had to share a bed with my sister. Though it wasn’t all bad. The hotel allowed pets, so I made a game of running our golden retriever up and down the halls. Our cat, meanwhile, got lost when the maids came in to vacuum and make my bed. We found her two days later, yowling in an empty hotel room. There was a Jacuzzi which we raved about all the time, but only used once. Tea was served in the front lobby. I enthusiastically related all this to my friends who would invariably ask about the really important changes: “So, no New Year’s Party?”

The hotel put together themed social events for us during weeknights. Monday is Nacho Night, Tuesday is BBQ, and so on. We got along with the employees, who all knew us by name (or at least said “you” in a more meaningful way than usual), but had no desire to meet any of the other tenants. Once, my parents and I sidled into BBQ night, grabbed a few plates of hamburgers and potato salad and attempted to sneak back to the room with minimum social interaction. Erin, the girl who ran the front desk, smirked as we snuck by, and said to me, “What, you’re still here?”

“Yep, I’m around for another week,” I replied, before turning up the hallway. We became stable faces in a place where most people come and go freely, locals within a community of visitors.

One day, my parents brought my siblings and me to the new house with a few beers and some cheese and crackers to get a first impression of the place. We wandered across the threshold into a gutted, stark interior. We set the food in the middle of the room and sat on the floor, munching. Mom gushed about her plans for the house: the walls they’d tear down, the paints they’d try, the rooms they’d create. “It’s definitely a project,” she admitted. It definitely wasn’t home to me, yet.

As the rest of my family occupied themselves with beer and brie, I wandered around my future home and started buying into the vision. It might not be home yet, but it sure beat the Marriott. I rejoined the others in what will be our new family room, and toasted to a new beginning.