Paradise Lost by Deb Jenny

The idea sounded decent in theory. A week at a Club Med in Florida, courtesy of the in-laws, who’d taken a fantastic anniversary trip to Bermuda with the entire family that we couldn’t attend, what with the birth of our third conflicting with it and all. But that’s a story for another day. Anyhow, at least Club Med would provide day care for the kids and activities galore with which to entertain them. We could while away the days poolside, sipping mai tais and pretending to have not a care in the world, despite having been flattened by the steamroller that was three children under the age of four. Granted, it wasn’t going to be one of those exotic Fiji Island-type Club Meds. After all, this was in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Hardly a tropical paradise. But it had the potential to suggest rest and relaxation, something that was in short supply in our lives at the time.

Truth is, I was still reluctant to take this trip. Our kids had never been in day care; the baby wouldn’t even take a bottle. I wasn’t particularly keen on unloading them with a slew of other kids, left to their own defenses, even if I did need a break. Desperately. I mean, desperately.

Our first day at the resort, we attempted to slough the kids off at the “kids club” with the uber-enthusiastic club leaders who promised unforgettable entertainment for our older two (aged 2 and 3-1/2), while our youngest, only a few months old, would be content to do whatever babies do all day: eat, sleep, poop, and slobber all over germ-infested toys shared with other babies from around the world who were also day care detainees.

But our kids were wise to our ways. They had no intention of letting us saunter off and do our thing while they were left with strange people who were paid minimum wage to feign interest in them but truly had no desire whatsoever to be with our kids. Tears, tears and more tears ensued. We tried to force the situation. Said we’d come back to check on them, they could join us in a couple of hours, all to no avail. We even slipped out, assuming eventually the kids would reconcile themselves to the plan. After all, the activities scheduled did sound relatively fun. Finally the day care folks came and retrieved us at the pool; it was a no-go with the vaunted day-care. We hadn’t even had a chance to order a mai tai.

Ahh…but our kids were there just long enough to catch a cavalcade of diseases, starting with…

Disease #1: an ear infection for the oldest, which meant we had to summon a cab to find a doctor in Port St. Lucie. So instead of the mai tai’s poolside, we got to schlep around the booming metropolis of Port St. Lucie in search of a pediatrician.

Disease #2: the baby got thrush. And a nursing baby who gets thrust translates into a mother who gets thrush. Back to the doctors, for her and me.

Disease #3: The baby got croup. Which meant no sleep. At all. Five people in one room with a croupy infant is not a recipe for restfulness. Next we had to leave the premises, paying exorbitant rates for yet another taxi, in search of a humidifier. How on earth we’d drag that back home with us along with the double stroller, the porta-crib, the diaper bag, the toys, the snacks, diapers for two of them, and the panoply of other kid necessities was another thing altogether; we’d worry about that later.

Disease #4: Middle child comes down with strep throat. Hello, taxi? Back to the pediatrician.

Disease #5: Oldest child next victim of strep. Ding ding ding. At that point we should have had a taxi on retainer.

Now, in between all of these fun assignations, we did find a few diversions, despite the fact that I am so not a Club Med type. Forced jollity is not my thing, and when one is resting poolside (well, resting might be a stretch, under the circumstances) and the staff breaks out into a singing, dancing extravaganza to the tune of the Club Med theme song just, well, because, I am inclined to club someone—whoever came up with that idiotic idea comes to mind first off.(And they did this enough that to this very day, I can instantly conjure up that miserable song. Scarred for life.).

But Club Med did have something that was right up my alley…

See, I grew up a gymnast without a gym. My hometown offered nothing resembling a real gym (one with uneven parallel bars, pommel horses, trampolines, balance beams, and tumbling mats), so I used my house as my own personal gymnasium. I did back walkovers down the spiral staircase in our front hall and round-off quadruple back handsprings in the yard. I even got a mat for my birthday and did flips, aerials, back flips and all sorts of freakish contortions right in the foyer of my house. But I never quite got it out of my system. Clearly it had lain dormant for quite some time. So when I found out that Club Med had a flying trapeze, I just couldn’t resist.

Whenever my youngest didn’t need to nurse (which was essentially constantly), I could be found at the trapeze. While terrified of heights, I was willing to risk it to get up on that thing and flip and fly and behave like an idiot because it was so damned fun. Who knew I had an affinity at that late age to aerial acrobatics? The trapeze staff, consisting mostly of a few crusty, haggardly refugees of circuses from days of yore, encouraged me and taught me all sorts of tricks and soon I was doing catches, and flipping from one to another swing hanging by my knees. It was awesome. I was capable enough that I was invited to perform in the weekly Club Med circus, performing for the many resort guests. Which was not bad for an old gel like me, at the ripe age of thirty-something.

So performance time arrived. I’m dressed in my usual shorts and a t-shirt, tucked in of course (wanting no one to get a peek at my top-heavy nursing mother self). But then the only cute trapeze guy—zee wan weez zee Franshe uhccente I sort of lusted after all week—hands me my costume. My bright blue lycra one-piece knee-length shimmery get-up that would have been too small even if it had been sized for me. Which it wasn’t.

Did I mention I’d just had a baby? And that my mammary-laden chest protruded far enough out that I could well have served cocktails on it? My gut and my butt and pretty much every piece of me was so not in the position to be wedged into a sky-blue lycra onesie like a psychedelic sausage. I pleaded with Jean-Luc or whatever the guy’s name was to grant me a stay of execution, but he insisted. “Eet eez your costume!” He insisted.

In his defense, he, too, was dressed shamelessly in a matching outfit, and it was none-too-flattering on him either. Those bulges are so on a need-to-know basis. But I relented. So this totally blew any chance of Jean-Luc finding me even remotely appealing, but worse still, I was exposed for all to see every dimple, lump, bulge and leaking milk stain imaginable. The good news? I succeeded in my catches and flips and did not make a fool of myself from a technical standpoint. From a style perspective, I was ranking up there as King of Fools. No, make that Emperor of Fools. I kept telling myself I didn’t know anybody, so what did it matter (except that when we got home, my husband kept insisting on showing all of our friends and family the video footage of my folly).

The other thing about Club Med is that everyone eats in this vast dining hall, buffet-style, with table upon table groaning with food. It sounds like a good idea. Social, convivial. A dining extravaganza. But to me, it was a giant incubator waiting to infect people.

About Night 5 of our trip, we were headed to the dining hall, at about 6 o’clock. As we rounded the corner near one of the pools, I saw a woman stop in her tracks, buckle over, and vomit, right into the swimming pool. Now, there is a party climate at Club Med. But honestly, 6 p.m. seemed awfully early for someone to be drunk enough to puke into the pool. Even 6 a.m. would be pushing it for that type of behavior. But that’s truly what I thought as I saw her, trying to maneuver our kids as far from the scene as possible.

Void of appetite, we entered the dining hall, got the kids set up at a table, headed to a buffet line, only to see another person turn and throw up, all over the floor next to the extensive line of dinner guests.

Wow, I thought. How weird is that? All these people so drunk they’re throwing up in public?

We sat down with the kids, started cutting up their food, and the baby, sitting in her infant seat next to me, suddenly began throwing up. Everywhere. And when a baby sets its mind to throwing up, it does so in a BIG and powerful way. Like in inverse proportion to their actual size.

We cleaned whatever we could, got her back to the room, and then spent the next several hours with a baby vomiting almost non-stop. By about 1 a.m. we realized we had a situation on our hands, got on the phone with the airline, changed our flights to first thing out in the morning. If we were going to have to end up hospitalizing our child for dehydration, we wanted to get home to do that. By dawn, she mercifully wasn’t throwing up quite so regularly. An hour or two had passed since the last episode by the time we boarded the plane. Ah, but she was waiting, it seemed. And once on board, threw up everywhere. It was a long ride home.

Amazingly, by the time we got back to our house, got everyone unpacked and fed, the baby’s stomach seemed to have settled down. That night, we tucked the kids in, so glad we didn’t have to take the baby to the hospital. We then collapsed into bed, hoping we’d be able to make up for the sleepless nights we’d had on that cozy little dream vacation.

I’d barely nodded off to sleep when our oldest came down to our room to tell us he’d just thrown up. Everywhere. Cue the clean-up crew: we got the beds changed, the blankets switched, and tucked him back in bed. Just in time for child #2 to wake up, throwing up.

About 3 a.m. and well into probably our sixth clean-up, trying desperately to latch onto something positive in the middle of our little slice of Hell, I said to my husband, “At least we’ve got a washing machine, we’ve got the comforts of home. Imagine this back in the 1800’s out on the prairie, how hard that would be.”

And then the washing machine broke.

By morning, we were out of clean linens. And my husband and I were vying for bathroom time, taking turns throwing up most of the day. It was the only time in our lives that the entire family never left the upstairs of the house for the entire day.

I vowed never to return to Club Med again. Confined locales brimming with buffets and breeding those kind of germs was not for me.

Did I mention that we’re supposed to take a cruise with one of our kids in a few months? Complete with buffets and everyone in confined areas, an environment ripe for disease. Ugh…


20 Replies to “Paradise Lost by Deb Jenny”

  1. Oy – you needed a vacation from that vacation. Sounds horrific! As a cruise veteran, I can assure you that you will have a good time. Just make sure you take lots of hand sanitizer.

  2. Oh, Jenny, this brings back memories–not that I had a club med vacation from hell like you did, but there was that cancelled flight at LAX when I was traveling by myself with two small boys–one still in diapers. I’ve blocked most of it out–but there was the slice of pizza dumped in my purse, the missing luggage, the lack of diapers, the ticket agent who accused me of line-jumping and then refused to help me, the “stand-by” seats we finally got (8 hours later) where we were told to “take any available seat” (yeah, I’ll just plunk my 18 month-old over there). I’m very lucky that I wasn’t arrested when I stopped dead in the airplane aisle and told one passenger (who was blaming me for holding up the flight!) to sit his fat ass down and the plane was going nowhere until I found 3 seats together.

    I’m with you about that hand sanitizer, too. Any vacation that requires it ain’t for me.

  3. sit your fat ass down! LOL! Judy, you and I would get along fine (and can you imagine putting your toddler in a strange part of the plane? And what passenger wouldn’t give up their seat to accomodate you, if for no other reason than to not be stuck having to take care of someone’s small child?!

  4. deb jenny, you’ve touched a nerve … i just pretend my local club med pool, sauna, and locker room are not awash in germs. but, hey, at least they’ve got working showers, which is more than i can say for my apartment. as far as your impending cruise is concerned, look on the bright side – maybe you can get an upgrade to a cleaner cabin if you bring along a blue lycra leotard and promise to perform some acrobatic stunts at the dinner shows. : ) therese

  5. OY motherhood! Good grief!! Well I have to tell my club med story. I won a club med trip when I was just in the throws of love with my current and final husband. They even swapped us Mexico for Treasure Island, the Bahamas. We decided to take it as our early honeymoon. Can’t remember if we were engaged yet but it sealed the deal for sure. The night we arrived we were off a terrible flight cross country and jet lagged all over. We still joke about saying “we’ll just rest for a minute” and fell dead asleep for half the night. As mentioned, club med meals were completely timed and group affairs and we’d missed dinner. We stumbled out to sit at some kind of meeting where everyone sang and motioned out the secret song, which we did not know. It was like going to Girl Scout Camp and not knowing the Kokabura song. We stared at each other and made up for it by drinking. I can’t even remember how we did food but the next day the amazing buffet made up for it. At one point the guests gave the baker a standing ovation. BTW if you drink enough (clearly your fatal error Jenny LOL) the bugs are killed apparently because I ate caviar by the mound and drank what one usually does when one is cute and thirty-two and has wisely left one’s two children from a previous marriage back home with one’s ex-husband LOL. Anyway we checked out of club med after using up my vacation win and went for one night to what was then owed by Merv Griffin and is now the Atlantis resort. One of the most luxurious fabulous resorts I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience. So we shook off the Club Med dance and dove into one of those pools that you swim up to the bar in- and no one had the bad taste to hurl into. Jenny, your flying trapeze story is amazing beyond words. I’m picturing you forever on a trapeze and I want to see those vids! The fact that you were a nursing mom at the time just adds that touch of absurdity I love about you.

  6. Oh, Jenny, your disaster just may have topped mine when we went to the in-laws and my dear mother-in-law died. Almost immediately, all three kids came down with hand-foot-and-mouth, double ear infections. flu, and then pneumonia. I say mine was just the least bit more manageable because when I got home, the washing machine didn’t break. You’re a true American hero, Jenny.

  7. Oh, Suz, your story cracks me up! Isn’t that soooo weird how they do that whole “group love” thing? I was just way not into that scene. I suppose the leaking breasts didn’t help matters LOL
    Larramie–ha! Hadn’t thought about that but I suspect you’re right–the true meaning of Club Med he he
    And Amy–what miserable timing for all of that–as I’m sure your husband was not of the mindset to deal with all the diseases on top of his mourning. Hero? Nah, just a schlub!

  8. Oh, Jenny. That is a truly horrific story and also a hilarious read!!!
    We did Club Med for our honeymoon and it was actually fine, but only because we worked hard to shun the group activities and drank our faces off every night. Dinner went from 8-10:30 and after the first couple of days we had the servers saving us a private table. We would get there at 8 and eat and drink until 10:30. It was ridiculous but so much fun.
    Again, you and I have something in common-I was did lots of gymastics as a kid and loved the trampoline they had at Club Med. I never made it into a show or a bodysuit though, thank goodness!

  9. Between my kids not EVER getting tricked into ANY day care of ANY kind EVER and lots of throwing up on us over the years, it sounds as if we have the same kids. Very funny, Jenny, as usual.

  10. Gail, you really can’t blame them, can you? I mean, I would imagine I’d totally shun it too. “Uh, you want me to go with that weirdo? I don’t think so!”

    And Danielle, the moral to the story is one must clearly have to drink heavily while at Club Med (see Suz’s post as well). Drink heavily and do gymnastics LOL

  11. This sounds so bad. I’ve learned several things however, never go to Club Med, never travel with small children, watch who is in the buffet line with you and never let a French man convince you to wear Lycra.

  12. Eileen, you’re a very good student. Gail, I think I blocked out the Frenchie–he only started to resurface in my memory as I was writing the story. It was one of those times in your life when you realize that you’ve past your prime and you were too exhausted to realize it was past. So the idea of this good-looking foreign entity 😉 seemed like such a good one at the time…But he was but a fly-by-night carny guy, who, I think, charmed the guests for better tips. The bastard!

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