To call sofagirl my friend, at this point in life, is a misnomer. After nearly thirty years in each other’s lives, Sue is my family. Her people are my people, and vice versa. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for her or her people in times of need and I know she feels the same about my tribe. I also know she would do what was needed with enthusiasm and efficiency, no questions asked.
While extending our notion of family to encompass those we choose to keep close is a sure mark of being all grown up, in our case, the ability to splurge without guilt is another. I can feel puzzlement surfacing in your eyes. Let me explain.
Somehow, when Sue and I are together, we seem to revert to the days of penury and veggie stews that characterized our shared time together when we were first starting in life. In the intervening years, neither of us has become a multi-millionaire, but we lack for nothing much. Yet, when we travel, we find ourselves balking at splurges big and small, like the time we hesitated in the foyer of the Guggenheim, agonizing over a $20 entrance fee. Did we really want to go in that badly? Apparently not. We toured the gift shop, where we spotted John Waters, coveted some hanging mobiles we didn’t purchase and then left to go pee at the Neue Gallery round the corner. To this day, we shake our heads remembering the episode.
This time, though, we went all out. On my second day in Cape Town, Sue had planned a visit to Babylonstoren, a hotel/farm in the Stellenbosch area, a 45 minute drive from town. It’s a wondrous place I couldn’t recommend enough if you are visiting the area: 200 hectares with over 800 varieties of edible plants that guests are welcome to pick and taste. An old Cape Dutch farm, it now houses cottages for guests, a spa, two restaurants, garden tours, all incredibly tasteful and amazingly appointed.
On that first day, we toured the gardens, enjoyed a couple of treatments at the spa and had lunch. And, after agonizing at reception for ten minutes, we booked a suite for my last night in town. I had the fleeting thought that was the most I had ever spent on an hotel room out of my own pocket. I did not feel guilty. And we couldn’t have made a better impromptu decision.
When we arrived, on a cold and rainy day announcing that winter was there to stay, we found out the vacation gods had been smiling down on us and the hotel surprised us by upgrading us to a two bedroom suite, a beautiful cottage with a glass dining room/kitchen, a lounge I wouldn’t mind in my house and ridiculously large bathrooms. We giggled like teenagers. Exotic men don’t excite us anymore but hard-won luxuries do. And we took full advantage.
So, was treating ourselves to something we didn’t really need but very much wanted a sign of maturity? In our case, we believe it was. And hopefully it’s also a harbinger of more self-care in the future, apart or together.
It was a million years away from the dodgy accommodations that dotted most of our vacations in our 20s and 30s, and extravagant enough for us not to take for granted. We couldn’t have enjoyed it more and it was a perfect end to a holiday that was generous with surprises – some wholly unplanned – and wild animals.