This is one of the guest rooms at The Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. The Greenbrier is a beautiful hotel tucked away in the Alleghany Mountains. Why would I have any reason to be there? Well, my mother grew up in West Virginia, and The Greenbrier has been an important place for her family. She and my dad honeymooned there, one of my uncles was married there, and there have been numerous family gatherings there over the years. I think I’ve probably stayed there four or five times, each time with my parents and brother, my grandparents, and my aunts, uncles, and cousins. The last time was when I was pregnant with Jake, so early 2001.
The Greenbrier has a very distinct look about it. It was decorated by someone famous in her signature style. Can’t remember who. Anyway, it’s a huge, sprawling building that looks like an old plantation house, with it’s own Olympic-sized pool, outdoor skating rink, movie theater, a bowling alley, and various other diversions*. As a kid it was like being at summer camp. There was a list of daily activities on your pillow each night, and you could just choose what you wanted to do each day. There were movies, dance lessons, performances. And if you didn’t want to do any of those things, you could go bowling! The first year we went, I think I was 14. All of the 5 cousins were so excited there was a bowling alley, that we just bowled all day, every day. When we would go get the bowling shoes, the attendants would ask us for our room number, and we’d tell them and then bowl and bowl and bowl like there was no tomorrow. We had no idea that it actually cost money to bowl, and they were billing all those games to the rooms. When my grandfather (who was very graciously hosting this fabulous reunion) got the bills for the rooms, he just about blew a gasket. I didn’t hear exactly what went down, but I believe the upshot was that the various parents paid all the bowling costs. Oops.
The next year that we went (maybe I was in my late teens?) we very carefully portioned out a little bowling each day so as not to break the bank, and spent much more time exploring the various hallways and sitting rooms. We were there for several days and kept finding new places. To this day I have dreams about wandering around The Greenbrier, and meeting various people in various parlors.
* Not many people know that the Greenbrier used to be the evacuation site for the government. There is a huge bunker underneath it with auditoriums and dormitories for all the senators and representatives – you know, in case WWIII happens and there’s a nuclear holocaust. There is an infirmary, a weapons depot, the whole shebang. They moved it once people got wind that it was there (why exactly does White Sulphur Springs, WV need a runway that can land a 747, hmmm? The capitol city Charleston can only land commuter jets!). Anyway, you can tour it now, which is really fun.