Because we were only 17 miles from our home, you couldn’t really call what we did a “Babymoon.” Instead of heading down to Puerto Rico (an early idea), we spent a day enjoying all the Christmas-related activities Philadelphia offers in December.
We strolled through the Christmas Village, took the obligatory photos in front of the Holiday Tree, stood next to a rack of bras and watched the Macy’s Christmas Light Show from the women’s intimate wear section on the third floor of the department store, and gawked at the animatronic characters that bring “A Christmas Carol” to life in the impressive, 6,000-square-foot walk-through of Dickens Village.
Then, instead of heading back home, we spent the night at an expensive downtown hotel, eating room service in our ridiculous bathrobes (I stole mine!). On the drive home the following day, we made a pact to do it again next year – with an 11-month-old baby.
As our daughter Emma screamed her way through the 50 minute, traffic-filled drive to the city, we had second thoughts about the tradition we were trying to start.
Those fears proved unfounded. The minute Emma got out of the car, she was mesmerized by the lights, the sounds and the smells of Christmas time in Philly – a mix of pine trees, cold weather, fried foods, and the faint odor of stale urine. Everything we enjoyed the previous year was magnified tenfold by the new addition of the baby we affectionately refer to as Beans. Emma’s Uncle Joe even met us for a few hours and bought her a new pair of gloves. I still have a clear picture of how happy Joe looked carrying Emma and her new gloves around.
When it was time to call it a day, again we opted for a fancy hotel that’s ordinarily well outside of our price range. Thanks to an insane Groupon deal, we’d secured a spot at the Loews Hotel.
Here’s how you can tell if the hotel you’re staying at is really, really nice: Opposing professional sports teams stay there. On this particular night, the Bilskis and the Denver Nuggets chose the Loews to rest their weary heads. As a huge lifetime fan of NBA basketball, I was star struck, and eager to make the most of my good fortune. After we put Emma to bed, I snuck back down to the lobby and mulled around until I noticed players heading to the elevator. I then wedged myself into the elevator with the NBA players. Once inside, I’d start with the questions: “You guys been following the Sixers’ progress at all? What do you think of Embiid?” and, “I’m in relatively good shape, so do you think I could train myself to dunk at this point in my life if I worked really hard?” I did this about four times before my wife called and asked me what the hell I was doing.
Emma had gone to bed without any issues, but she didn’t stay asleep long. When she awoke to find herself in a luxury hotel instead of her modest, unimpressive townhouse, she must’ve thought she’d been kidnapped. To this day, I’ve never heard Emma scream the way she did that night in the Loews Hotel. And she never stopped the whole time my wife and I took turns trying to console her. She didn’t stop when the bellhop came by to tell us there were complaints and ask if everything was okay, either. For his part, the bellhop seemed relieved when we opened the door and he saw we weren’t performing any human sacrifices.
The wailing got so bad we thought about going to the ER. Instead, we bundled up our 11-month-old daughter for the December night and headed out to pick up some Motrin at a 24-hour Rite Aid a few blocks away. While I was putting Emma’s coat on, I glanced at the alarm clock on the bedside table. It read 1:48 a.m.
On the walk, I saw a man pooping next to a dumpster. When you’re pushing a stroller with your screaming baby through the streets of Philadelphia at 2 a.m. on a cold December night and you spot a man defecating on parking lot asphalt, it really makes you question your parenting decisions.
Eventually the Motrin worked its magic, and Emma managed to drift off for a few hours. Watching her sleep, I began to wonder if we were being dramatic about what had happened.
Then I remembered what I overheard the bellhop saying on the phone as I was pushing Emma’s stroller into the elevator and heading off to the Rite Aid: “I told you, I’ll deal with the loud music and weed smell coming from the players’ rooms in a minute,” the frazzled man barked. “But I had to deal with that baby first!”
*I’m only 46% sure he said “weed smell.” I’m 99% sure he said loud music, though.