Byline: Jamie Sotonoff email@example.com
My mom called me at work one wintry weekday and suggested we take a four-day trip to Aruba together u just the two of us.
As she spoke, I glanced out the window and saw it snowing for the 800th time. I looked at my pasty white skin. I felt a wave of tired roll over me from working two jobs and raising two little kids with no real break. Before I knew it, I had uttered the word, "Sure."
Then I hung up the phone and panicked.
Could our very different personalities coexist 24/7? Would I be able to relax and enjoy a beautiful Caribbean island with my high-energy, high-maintenance, wacky, talkative and brutally blunt mother alongside me?
ItAEd either be quality time together and a much-needed sun-drenched getaway, or a fight-filled weekend that would land me in therapy for years.
It didnAEt start out well.
On the 4:45 a.m. ride to OAEHare, my mom was chatty and upbeat. I, on that other hand, was half-asleep and annoyed by everything she did (must we discuss the war in Iraq before 5 a.m.?).
During a layover in Atlanta, at 9 a.m. Chicago time, I bought a Chick-fil-A sandwich and fries, which prompted a nasty lecture about my bad eating habits.
"This is going to be four long days," I thought, rolling my eyes.
Things took a significant turn for the better, thanks to Delta Air Lines in-flight trivia game. On the screens in front of our economy seats, we became entrenched in a fun, but competitive rivalry with each other and the history buff in seat 19A.
Still, I wasnAEt convinced this trip was a good idea until I breathed the tropical air and walked through the automatic sliding doors of the newly renovated Marriott Aruba Resort and Stellaris Casino.
I instantly went from being unappreciative and bratty to grateful and giddy.
This is one of those resorts that gives you little reason to venture out: It has a spa, a casino, shopping and houses several restaurants, including a RuthAEs Chris Steak House, a sushi bar, an enormous buffet and a 24-hour counter where I could get a cookie or a can of pop and sign for it.
It was like an upscale cruise ship minus the tiny cabins and seasickness.
For those unfamiliar with Aruba, there are a few important things to know. First, itAEs always windy. ThatAEs good for mosquito-haters, but neat hair is out of the question. Ironically, the island rarely experiences hurricanes.
Second, Aruba is only a few miles off the coast of South America (Venezuela, to be precise). So, unless you catch one of the rare nonstop flights, plan on at least seven hours of flying time.
It doesnAEt feel much like a foreign country because everything is written and spoken in English, and there are many familiar American chains. But the island is actually Dutch, which is obvious in the architecture of downtown Oranjestad, the capital city where most commerce exists. The Old World European-styled buildings are punched up with bright Caribbean paint colors like pink, yellow and orange.
The island faced some bad publicity from the 2005 Natalee Holloway murder, but natives insist it was an isolated incident and Aruba is safe. It certainly feels safe. People are genuinely friendly, and not in that wanna-buy-a-souvenir? kind of way. Rarely do you see neAEer-do-wells lingering around the beaches or tourist areas. My mom and I found ourselves worrying far more about sunscreen than safety during our long weekend there.
Our first mother-and-daughter activity was a Snorkel Catamaran Cruise with DePalm. …