From Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler's Soul

At Your Service

A happy family is but an earlier heaven.

John Bowring

“Forget about willing us your money,” my husband counseled his mother. “As your financial advisor, I’m telling you, if you want to see a huge return on an investment, invest in your family. Why don’t you plan a trip and take us all with you?”

Heeding his advice, my mother-in-law mailed tickets to the entire family, scattered from the East Coast to the West. She attached a note that read: “Let’s meet in Jamaica and celebrate the New Year together. Love, Mom.”

It was our first trip out of the country with three-year-old Zoe, and she couldn’t wait to be with her grandma, cousins and aunts.

We boarded the red-eye with two suitcases in hand—a gigantic one filled with toys, books, diapers, sunscreen, floaties and blankies, and a teensy one stuffed with bathing suits and shorts. Zoe stretched across our laps, tossing and turning before finally nodding off. Visions of frosty margaritas and Jacuzzi-warm Caribbean waters lulled me to sleep despite my bolt-upright position.

“I like the new place!” Zoe exclaimed upon discovering the basket of sweets and a welcome balloon in our hotel room.

The “new place” was indeed full of wonder. Elevator buttons miraculously turned green at the touch of her fingertips. Messy beds and dirty towels reappeared fresh and clean as if by a magic wand. But nothing surpassed the sheer amazement of awakening to a table of fresh fruit, muffins and warm milk.

“How’d this get here?” She rubbed the sleep dust from her eyes.

“Room service,” I said, watching those two words permanently implant themselves in her vocabulary.

“Room service,” she repeated, rolling the words on her tongue as if they possessed the same mysterious powers as “open sesame.”

Zoe polled every person she encountered on the elevator. “Grandma, did room service come to your room? Aunt Linnie, Aunt Lisa, room service came to us; did they come to you?” And each morning for a week the room service fairies slipped in and out before she awoke.

Our trip ended much too quickly, and it wasn’t long before we found ourselves at the airport hugging and saying our good-byes and thank-yous.

Back home, I tucked Zoe into bed. Memories fresh, we reminisced about the trip: playing with Grandma and the cousins, water slides and sandcastles. We made pinkie promises we’d do it again as we kissed goodnight.

I went to my room and found my husband unpacking. “You’re brilliant,” I said, hugging him from behind. “‘If you want to see a huge return on your investment, invest in your family.’” I kissed him. “That’s advice I’ll have to remember.”

At dawn, the alarm buzzed relentlessly, and Zoe padded into our room and into our bed. “Where’s room service?”

“Oh, honey,” I rubbed my eyes and chuckled, “room service is over. We’re not on vacation anymore.”

“It’s not fair! I want room service!” she wailed. “I like room service!”

“Oh, I do, too. Believe me.”

She remained inconsolable, and my head throbbed to the rhythm of her sobbing. I desperately needed coffee.

“Wait here. I’ll bring you a surprise.” I stumbled out of bed and closed the door behind me.

Minutes later I returned and rapped at the door.

“Who’s there?” Zoe asked.

“Room service,” I said in my best hotel voice.

“Come in,” she beckoned. Her eyes lit at the sight of the tray bearing warm milk, hot coffee and books.

“Scoot over.” I slipped in beside her, and we snuggled close beneath the feather comforter. Indulgently sipping drinks, we read, laughed and tickled long into the morning.

“See, Mommy,” said Zoe, with the divine logic only a three-year-old could possess, “every day is good for room service!”

“You’re so right.” I smiled.

It’s been seven years now since “room service” started. We even fit it in on school days, and we have never missed more than a handful. But it’s the mornings when Zoe awakens me—precariously balancing her signature coffee concoction along with books on a tray—that I marvel at the huge and unexpected return on my investment.

Tsgoyna Tanzman

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