“I booked three nights in a one-room cabin in Woodstock, Vermont with two queen beds, a fireplace and an air mattress!” my husband Francis bellowed excitedly, after searching for a last-minute excursion for our family during the long holiday break. After two tours in Europe, our three kids were accustomed to these spontaneous trips, otherwise known as “forced family fun.”
We found our cabin nestled among the snowy Green Mountains of Vermont, which looked like a Currier and Ives lithograph. Sturdy barns decorated with boughs of fresh pine, stone farmhouses puffing smoke from chimneys, covered bridges over cold mountain streams, and horse-drawn sleighs.
We arrived with just enough time to explore the town and bed down for the night. Francis heroically agreed to take the air mattress, which he wedged between the two beds.
The room fell silent, except for an occasional whistle of wind coming through the cabin window, cracked to counteract heat from the fire’s dying embers. But soon, heavy breathing emanated from Francis’ spot. We all fidgeted with pillows to shield our ears.
Ten minutes later, the sound progressed to a low grumble, and within twenty minutes, it was a legitimate snore, growing sharper with each exhale. After 23 years of marriage, I knew that Francis thought snoring was his’s God-given right, and my wifely duty to endure. If I nudged him gently and whispered, “Hon, roll over, you’re snoring,” he would not be apologetic. He would “tsk” loudly to show his annoyance at being disturbed.
But I had to act, knowing grouchy teenagers are far worse than annoyed husbands.
I reached down to give the air mattress a jiggle. After a loud snort, the snoring ceased, only to resume in earnest one minute later. This cycle went on for what seemed like hours. I heard the kids’ sheets rustling and several exasperated sighs. At one point, someone uttered, “Are you kidding me?”
I lost consciousness sometime after midnight, but awoke when I saw Lilly getting out of bed. “Mom, I haven’t slept all night!” she cried in desperation. At that point, I knew I had to keep a constant vigil.
Tiptoeing in the dark, I found a fan in the closet, and despite the winter chill, set it to high to drown out the racket. I laid down, leaving my bare leg dangling from the side of the bed to kick Francis’ mattress as needed. For three hours, I repeatedly swung my chilly foot through the night air to interrupt the snoring.
Around 6 am, I passed out, before Francis woke us all for the free breakfast at the lodge. “What an awful night,” I complained, slumping out of bed.
“Tell me about it,” Francis snapped.
“Dad, are you serious?!” Anna choked out, astonished.
“What?” Francis huffed, incredulously.
Over breakfast, the kids gave an hour-by-hour account of our hellish ordeal, in hopes of convincing Francis that he was NOT the victim. Our youngest, Lilly, dropped the final bombshell, when she produced a series of time-stamped video-selfies she took on her smartphone in the middle of the night. In the recordings, Lilly tried in vain to ignore the obvious snoring in the background. She tossed and turned, smashed pillows against her ears, and gritted her teeth. Finally, around 3 am, she began to cry.
Unable to ignore the overwhelming evidence against him, Francis burst out laughing while watching tears drip from Lilly’s nose. Deliriously, we laughed too.
That afternoon, while wandering aimlessly through idyllic Woodstock like zombies, we stopped in the general store to get a pharmacist’s advice before enduring a second sleepless night. While he rang up $30 worth of sleep aids, ear plugs, breathing strips and nose spray, he bestowed a little secret: “Oh, and everyone except your husband should drink heavily.”
Rather than violate underage drinking laws, we placed Francis’ air mattress halfway inside the cabin closet, and with the pharmacy items, the fan, and our own sheer exhaustion, we slept so soundly, I had sheet marks imbedded in my face until lunchtime the next day.
What seemed like a scene from “Dawn of the Living Dead” ended up being so funny, it restored our trip to “forced family fun” status.