Dara LevanBlog10 Comments

I just returned from a fun-filled family weekend. We celebrated Thanksgiving at my home with several people. Then some of us drove to Naples Friday morning. The Sawgrass expressway, in my opinion, is one of the most boring roads in the United States. I felt as if it would never end. So I sang to the tune of whatever songs blared from the speakers. I’d planned to write this week about close cousin love. Or so I thought.

My inspiration shifted due to an unexpected conversation at dinner Friday night.  Can you believe we had room in our bellies or even the desire to consume any more food? Yep! We sure did. I think I’m still digesting sweet potato pie from Thursday’s feast!

One of the adults, who shall remain nameless because I value our relationship, filled his car with gas from Wawa. A teen at the table innocently shared that the adult “borrowed” 10 sugar packets while at the station. The teen demonstrated his admirable ethics and moral compass when he asked, “Isn’t that stealing?”

My mouth wrestled with words between bites of grilled eggplant. I stared aghast at the adult. I said, “Yes it is! How can you model that sort of behavior for a child?!” The adult retorted resolutely, “I spent $60 on gas so what’s wrong with taking a few sugar packets? It’s not like I just stopped by for those—I spent a lot of money at the station!”

I heard another voice echo the same sentiments. He, too, felt adamantly that the pilfering was justified. I said, “But you didn’t go there for coffee. Your intention was strictly to fuel your car, so I kinda agree with this young man.” What began as a casual comment sparked a philosophical, hilarious discussion.

And another adult offered, “Well what about napkins, huh? What’s wrong with grabbing a huge handful at Starbucks? Not just for the current drink, but to shove into the glove compartment in the car for a future spill?”

Another relative said, “Well when I was growing up, our family took towels and ashtrays from hotel rooms.” She continued as I started to choke on my water. I learned it’s difficult to drink and giggle. “I honestly didn’t know until I was in my ‘30s that you’re supposed to buy towels!” My brown eyes were about to pop out of their sockets. Seriously.

Then another adult referenced a hysterical “Friends” episode. (This weekend and the comical, continued banter felt like we were all characters in a sit-com.) If you’re not familiar with the television show or the scene, I must tell you about it. And you should definitely watch it on YouTube.

Chandler and Ross arrived at a hotel. They felt they were being ripped off because the only room available was a deluxe, expensive suite. They drove nearly six hours to reach their destination, so they succumbed and paid the high fee. Ross, in his hyper, sugared up state, called the front desk. He said that he forgot some items and asked for “complimentary toiletries” (a toothbrush, toothpaste, aftershave, dental floss, and even tampons). They also took apples and any other food they could find.

After we all laughed about the “Friends” scene, my husband told our family that I collect soaps and shampoos from hotels.  Yes, I am guilty, but I’ve donated bath gel and conditioner to those in need. I also told him it’s practical to do this so we are prepared for any guests who spend the night at hotel Levan.

Our laughter and lively debate continued. Is this stealing? I vehemently protested. We paid for the room. The staff leaves lots of bath products near the sink. I was enthralled with the scent and generous size — four ounces of total bliss — at one particular place in Europe. The bottles didn’t fit into my carry on luggage, so I took a chance and shoved them into my suitcase. Only some of the liquid leaked onto my clothing, but it was well worth it!

We were in Italy a few years ago. I hadn’t left the U.S. in 15 years—this was an unforgettable, romantic anniversary trip. I may have placed a set of flowery, fabulous soaps into my toiletry bag when we were in Positano. I rationalized this action as out-of-the-country sociologic research. We returned from a day exploring the town. I opened the door and shrieked with delight. The hospitable Italian staff restocked my stash! I may have conducted this experiment the next day or possibly days. Needless to say, it’s now two and a half years later, and the aroma of the Amalfi Coast resides in my bathroom.

Just to be clear, I am discerning and deliberate about what I bring home. My husband teased me at brunch this morning about my humble collection. Another adult who will also remain anonymous chimed in from across the table. “Oh! I don’t just do that you guys! I go into the hallway and help myself to stuff from the cart!”

We hugged each other goodbye, sad as always to leave. On the way home, I told the kids how grateful I am for our family and my in-laws. They coordinate a family trip at least once a year, and this has provided peaceful, uninterrupted bonding and quality time. I’m beyond thankful that the cousins are connecting and developing such close relationships.

My belly is begging for a break but my heart is full and content. (Actually, as you are reading this, we are about to consume the remaining cranberry sauce and turkey.) I’ll be back to my usual healthy eating in the morning. But I don’t regret for a second savoring toasty, melted marshmallows last night as all the cousins ages 5-15 years old frolicked in the sand. I am overflowing with gratitude for memories made on another family trip. These past few days were filled with humor, love, laughter, lotion, sugar packets, and our own family comedy.

P.S. My husband just reminded me about the playing cards we discovered a year ago in the drawers of his grandmother’s card table. She clearly collected one pack from every airline across the globe.

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