HOJO Orange

“I don’t believe in being serious about anything. I think life is too serious to be taken seriously.”
—Ray Bradbury, WD

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“Ellie, Porter, behave yourselves. We’re all going to get a turn don’t worry,” I coaxed the children out of their arm wrestle to decide who would get to sit in the chair first, “Remember, this is a family photo so we’re all going to be in it.”

Who was I kidding, they didn’t care that eventually we would all be sliding back into the oversized orange armchair that caused jaws to drop and eyes to widen the minute we pulled into the Howard Johnson parking lot. No matter what it was we were doing, they always had to fight to be the first ones to do it.


“We have to unpack before we can do anything,” my husbands bad-cop voice filled the room, silencing the rambunctious eight and five year olds for a few seconds.

Room 205. Filled with memories and couples retreats, this would be the first time taking the kids with us – a true test of our patience. Across the road lies the Mystic Aquarium and Old Mystic Village, down the road a few miles is Mystic Seaport and downtown Mystic with the infamous drawbridge ice cream parlor and another few miles from there is the Nature Center – but what really had caught everyone’s attention was sitting in the hotel parking lot.

One king sized bed filled the center of the room, and of course, as soon as the clothes were neatly set in piles to be put in drawers, Porter had found his way up and managed to jump over it’s entire surface – destroying any semblance of organization I thought I had created. At least Ellie, while not helping with the unpacking as her dad had warned her to, was busy fidgeting with the jammed sliding glass door.

“I can’t get it,” she muttered, arms folded, head down and a big pout on her face.

Then behind her came daddy’s big, strong super hero arms. Chuckling, he moved the metal bar holding the door open – the same bar he’d always forgotten about on our many trips to this exact room. The moment it slid open the tiniest crack she shot out, climbing on the worn, green plastic armchair, her little fingers wrapped around the wrought iron rail.

“Be careful,” I scolded with worry from the bedside where I stood re-folding the mess Porter had made.

After roughly ten minutes of mayhem, the room was organized and unpacked to my liking and both Ellie and Porter had grabbed the only two keys to the room and run down the hall toward the double doors, impatiently waiting for us to catch up and lead them out the sidewalk and around the corner to the orange monument that is Howard Johnson’s Giant Chair.

Scrambling up the two steps, elbows banging and screeching laughter filling the parking lot, the two made it into the seat in record time. Their faces were beaming as their little legs flailed and their butts slid back, revealing that the chair was just as long as Porter’s legs and much longer than Ellie’s who got her height (or lack of it) from me.

Holding my husbands hand I couldn’t help but laugh at the giddiness brought by such an everyday piece of furniture – granted, a larger than life every day piece of furniture.

“Come ON guys,” the kids yelled in unison.

“Get up here you slow pokes,” Porter added, never passing up an opportunity to comment on our slowness because you’re old as he so lovingly put it.

The air was dry and warm, not quite spring anymore and not yet summer, the breeze was refreshing and the sun warmed my pale arms which stuck out from my short sleeve shirt. Ellie and Porter’s blonde hair reflected in the sunlight and their blue eyes shone with anticipation of another family photo.

Just then a young couple, the must have been in their late teens, walked by and offered their photography skills. Pulling out the red camera, I handed it to them with a smile, thanking them for their patience ahead of time – I knew how these family photos went.

“I call mommy’s lap,” Ellie yelled over Porter.

“Fine I wanted to sit on daddy’s anyway,” He retorted with his tongue sticking out.

Shaking my head I climbed up, my husband following, and we leaned back as far as we could. Butts down, backs against the set and feet sticking over the edge (mine only slightly).

Ellie quickly climbed into my lap and Porter, scrambling over the both of us, causing groans and eye-rolls from Ellie and I (the more sophisticated of the family) settled in his fathers.

“Ok everyone,” the dark haired teenager instructed, “Smile and say HOJO.”

Then, with a snap, a flash, and only one pair of bunny ears behind my head, yet another family memory was captured.


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