We stayed in a pot house, but none of us smoked. I swear.
My mom had this idea to rent an Airbnb in Denver over Thanksgiving weekend so her children and grandchildren could loll away the holiday in cozy proximity to Christmas light displays and shopping malls.
She considered a few different houses, but the one she ultimately rented for everyone touted itself as “420 Friendly.”
For those of you who didn’t go to public school and learn these things, “420” is a slang expression for smoking marijuana.
This was an odd pick for Mama, whose idea of getting high is eating a whole box of chocolates.
But besides having shiny purple bongs on display, this house had a pool table, vintage arcade games, a hot tub and a Netflix subscription.
My mom busied her credit card with thoughts of giggling grandchildren and arcade bloop sounds. It’s a known fact that my mom never got enough arcade time in the ’80s.
She rented the house.
Now, I’ve never done drugs either, unless you count that time I tried some long cut Copenhagen and barfed in my college roommate’s sink.
I was not excited about taking the boys to a house marketed for marijuana binges, even if it was Thanksgiving weekend and I was supposed to be focusing on gratitudes and positives.
I decided to be a diva.
“Is that rental final?” I asked my mom in a text.
“Yup!” said she, probably thinking I had an ulterior motive to call dibs on the first round of Pac-Man.
I didn’t respond.
And I still didn’t respond.
It must have hit her. Mom soon texted the entire family group that she had asked Airbnb management to hide all the bongs.
So they hid all the bongs.
We made the trip to Denver, parked in a night-soaked Denver residential neighborhood and scuttled into the house, which for all its colorful advertising was …
Just fine. It was clean; there were no pipes in sight. There were no hidden cameras, no “special” brownies in the fridge and no indoor plants of the grass variety.
Everything was perfect until the baby found the bongs.
My 1-year-old nephew slid open a desk cupboard with a mesh face, and out tumbled the renter’s instructional binder, revealing enough weed paraphernalia to make Willie Nelson yodel.
“Nooope, Nawp,” said my brother, who scooped up the baby and planted him on a deep window ledge. There, the baby shouted “TRUCK!” 30 times until the thug life thrill wafted from his memory like a cloud of smoke.
Meanwhile, my sons learned to play pool under the gaze of stoner pin-up girls on posters. Their grandma alternated between challenging them at pool, polishing the whole kitchen, and playing Tapper in the arcade room.
“Hiya Mama!” began the little-feisty twin, cradling the pool cue in his gentle open hand. “This pot house is a good place for ruckusing.”
Just then, my cabin fever struck and the open road called.
I’m a country bumpkin. I have no idea what city folk busy themselves with and which parts of Denver are safe for lone female runners. So I texted my coordinates to my friend and colleague Leo, who knows the area and is generally reassuring.
“Yeah you’re totally good there,” Leo replied. “BUT FOR HECK’S SAKE DON’T RUN SOUTH.”
After my dad showed me which way was south, I had a fine run. Turns out, Denver is made of hills, and hills are made for me. Win-win.
When I got back to the pot house, my sister was cooking tacos. My sons and nephews (except the baby) were watching “Home Alone” on a mega screen from the hot tub. My mom had the high score on Tapper.
All was right with the world. We conquered the pot house; I conquered my fears.
I was almost sad when it was time to leave. Almost.
But I could never be downhearted with Wyoming waiting for me to come home.
The boys and I cheered when we crossed the Wyoming line: when the rolling hills cinched their snowy petticoats into shy pleats, when the sky cleared into a breathless nether, when the earth thirsted for human contact.
My parents had given us a charming vacation in a pot house in balmy Colorado. But on the drive home I realized that one of their greatest kindnesses – and my deepest gratitude – is that they raised me in Wyoming.