While some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them, it is quite possible that the latter two might never befall my daughter. However, if nothing else, she was evidently born to be one of the world's great vacationers.
We were undecided prior to our family trip earlier this month if taking our toddler out of her element for a week could be considered a holiday for anyone with their ear drums intact. Although she's traveled extensively in the nearly two years she's been alive, it's been almost exclusively to see grandparents (and I'm guessing they would hardly call their homes being turned upside down by her Katrina-like path of destruction a cause for celebration).
Club Med Ixtapa Pacific in southwestern Mexico might not technically exist solely for the purpose of my daughter (I got the distinct impression that they were open before we arrived and remained in operation upon our departure), but they seemed to have been created specifically with her in mind. From the time we were greeted at the richly-appointed reception area, with literal open arms by a young staff member as warm as Ricardo Montalban (minus the ominous "Fantasy Island" undertones), my daughter scooped up the glass of rosemary infused lemonade that was artfully arranged on a bamboo tray, scrambled up on the leather club chair and lounged like it was her life's calling. She had arrived, indeed.
For a baby who has refused to drink anything but water since we took away her bottle seven months ago, she easily expanded her beverage repertoire to include not only lemonade but pool water, ocean water, ice cubes made from tap water, pina coladas and banana daiquiris. Thanks to Club Med's water filtration system, there was nary a trace of Montezuma's Revenge (nor any indication that an AA meeting might be in her immediate future).
While holding court in her high chair on the patio overlooking the idyllic Pacific Ocean during meals, she gleefully shoveled in plate after plate of pizza, spaghetti Bolognese and mangos and papaya (early on at Club Med she learned to eschew less urbane fruit selections like grapes, apples and oranges). The gracious staff cleared her plates, laughed pleasantly at her attempts to say "gracias" and "por favor," each time politely turning a blind eye to her food remnants that were scattered around the marble floor and embedded in the lily-white tablecloths. The staff was so kind, in fact, that when the toilet in our room got clogged (not her fault, but it was easy enough to blame her anyway), the lovely man who came to fix it brought a plunger wearing a poncho and smiled sweetly at her as if he recognized she wasn't capable of something so unseemly.
We left her at Petit Club Med one morning so we could take a fishing excursion and upon our return were told she had devoured two servings of the catch of the day, plus rice, broccoli and mashed potatoes, donned a sun hat and hit no one. I'm not sure we really believed them, but we lingered for a moment anyway, imagining at long last we had found the Shangri-La in which our daughter ate something not red, wore something on her head and treated others her size respectfully.
But perhaps one of the best parts about Club Med Ixtapa Pacific was that even when our little imp let out one of what has become her signature shrieks or swiped another child's ball, everyone was too busy tending to their own sand-filled and chlorine-logged kids to care about what ours was doing.
One evening she marched up to a little boy and grabbed a chunk of his hair in her fist and then moments later claimed another girl's pigtail, and my heart actually swelled with pride. Being an international bully on the sun-drenched shores of Mexico is so much more sophisticated and intriguing than beating up on the provincial kids at home.
She slept long and soundly in the cool, dark room that adjoined ours, hers thoughtfully outfitted with kid-sized furniture and jungle prints that kept her imagination occupied long after waking up each day.
But her most blissful moments were floating in endless circles in the pool, watching the iguanas race on the resort grounds, lazing in one of the canopy-covered couches surrounding the pool and ocean, hopping around from slide to seesaw on the playground, and attempting to coat herself with every grain of sand on the beach.
Ours were when she was distracted enough by the aforementioned so that we could steal glimpses of the pelicans diving for fish, breath in the splendor of the cacti and colorful tropical blooms, and survey the sun nestle behind the Sierra Madre mountains every evening. Even when my daughter peed on me one night during a circus-type show, we were on vacation, so what's a little urine between kin.
On the morning we took a boat to Ixtapa Island for a short snorkeling trip, it was as if she sensed we might have found happiness elsewhere and proceeded to pitch a fit for the entire journey, almost out of what seemed to be a fierce sense of loyalty to her beloved temporary home. As soon as the boat arrived back on the tranquil and uncrowded Club Med beach, she cooed contentedly.
The vacation bar is raised and has been set.