Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Hotel/Motel (09/12/05)
By Kathryn Wickward
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In the weeks leading up to the retreat, I saw neither flyer nor bulletin announcement publicizing the weekend. Instead, we received a phoned invitation. I wasn't sure what to expect, as we were relative newcomers to this parish, but I envisioned time spent in prayer, thoughtful presentations from the pastor, and supervised activities for the children. I was not aware that this particular retreat had a theme, nor did anyone mention a keynote speaker.
It's a long drive from Seattle with two small children, but we are lucky - they travel well, and are young enough to nap for a good portion of the trip. Eventually we pull into the long driveway leading to Tradewinds by the Bay, an unremarkable two story cinderblock motel. We pass an outdoor pool to our left, and spy a wooden common building to the right of the motel. Good signs. We carry our sleepy-shy children into the office to check in. The manager is a woman in her mid-fifties, who stamps out her cigarette and follows us in to hand us keys to our room. Our children warily eye two somnolent dogs in the corner. "Aw, they're old," the manager says, her voice gravelly. "They won't bother the kids."
Our daughter is delighted with the room. "Is this our new house?" she asks. "Just for two days," I tell her. She takes in the silk flower decorations, the pastel bedspread, the oversized television, and gleefully calls out one of her other discoveries: "Look, the drawers open! " I note the kitchenette and correctly surmise that we'll be making our own meals. There are, in fact, two rooms. The sitting area has an additional door that opens to a common patio. There are Adirondack chairs, picnic tables, barbecues, a firepit, and a glorious pit full of soft beach sand and toys. There is no retreat schedule to be found. That evening, we have dinner at a local coffee shop and purchase groceries.
In the morning, it is low tide. The beachfront is a long walk away. We join a couple of teenagers and their dads to look for clams. We hike far out in the smelly muck (not sand!) with bare feet, and are told that eventually we'll feel them, there is no need to dig. And indeed, when we finally find them they feel like clusters of golf balls beneath our feet. We load up our buckets.
Throughout the day, our fellow church members read, chat in small groups, play horseshoes. No one moves to the common building. We talk about our kids and theirs, while our son befriends the dogs and follows them around. Mike, who makes balloon animals for the younger kids, is the father of 4 teens. His oldest is graduating from the university and isn't sure what he'll do next. Marybeth is frustrated working for the school district. Dic has plans for the church building renovation. Mark and Teresa's 5 year old daughter recovered from surgery for a heart defect, and is building roads in the sand pit with our daughter. We take the kids to play in the pool, where the water is warmer than the air, and when we get out, we race to our room, shivering, to change.
For dinner, we push the picnic tables together, and pool our meals for a potluck. Someone steams the clams, and they are ambrosial. Mike's wife makes killer barbecue spareribs. After dinner we gather at the fire. Someone asks the pastor's assistant, "So, what makes us different from the Protestants?" and we have a 5-minute talk about theology before making s'mores.
The Tradewinds motel is to be sold this year, and I am sorry that this may be the last "retreat" we'll attend. We have a creed we say at church, and the last statement goes like this: "We believe that as members of Christ's Body, we can form community." We came to the retreat as fellow attendees of Sunday services. We left as community.
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