Way back in January, I got the idea to surprise my mother with a trip to the spa for her birthday. And not just any spa. It had to be Rock Haven in Hays.
It’s an amazing spa in an old stone barn on a farm 10 miles south of town down a dirt road. Clients begin their treatments by changing into swimsuits and robes and soaking in a hot tub while sipping sparkling wine and eating fruit. Then they relax in the steam shower and use a minty scrub to make their skin glow. Finally, they go into a dark, quiet, stone-walled room for massages and other treatments. Sounds great, right?
The plan was that my two younger sisters, Carrie and Caitlin, and I would split the cost of my mom’s massage and each get one of our own. Nevermind that my sisters and I always seem to bicker on road trips, or that my mother doesn’t really like surprises. I was sure it was going to be great.
Mom took the surprise well enough, by which I mean she didn’t flat-out refuse to go. (Apparently she did that once to my dad when he planned a romantic weekend at The Broadmoor in Colorado.) I would have like to see a little more jumping and screaming in her reaction, but I guess it was sufficient. So she abandoned her relaxing Friday night to go shave her legs and dig out a bathing suit.
At Rock Haven we were greeted and led up a set of big stone stairs, and into a building where we changed into our swimsuits and robes. Then we headed to a patio to soak in the hot tub and enjoy fruit and sparkling wine. I felt that the plastic cups they served it in were more suited to, say, a Toby Keith video than my fantasy spa experience, but I got over it.
We all sat back and closed our eyes. When we opened them, a peacock that had the run of the the grounds was just feet from the hot tub. My mom immediately went on the defensive.
“You go away! Shoo! Shoo! Shoo!” she shouted. But her old-fashioned admonitions didn’t work, and the peacock inched closer. And then another one appeared.
Mom grabbed Carrie’s wine cup, filled it with hot tub water, and tried to splash the birds away. It worked, but the mood was wrecked.
Carrie complained that she now had nothing to drink. Somehow that turned into her making a derisive comment about the fit of Caitlin’s swimsuit, and it just about turned into a full-fledged argument when an attendant returned to take us to the steam shower.
I’m not sure why I was surprised that sitting in a small, humid glass box with three other people wasn’t pleasant, but I was.
We relaxed in steam so thick you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. After a few minutes, though, it was really hot, and Caitlin needed a break. The only problem was, she couldn’t get out. She knocked on the glass. No one came. She knocked again. Nothing. I told her just to sit down and breathe. But she started to panic, and Carrie started banging frantically on the door.
I told her the banging wasn’t helping Caitlin or my relaxation.
“Well Caitlin needs out, and I want out, too!”
“Well no one can hear you, so just calm down!”
Fortunately, someone finally came along to let us out. It was time for our massages.
Mom and Carrie left for theirs, but Caitlin and I had to wait for our treatment room to open up. We chatted on a couch and waited. This wouldn’t have been a problem, except that Caitlin had to get back home to got to work.
When we finally got into the room, Caitlin figured she would be a half-hour late if we got the full massage. We decided to cut our hour-long massages in half to make up the difference. So not everything went according to my vision of a perfect spa day. We could take a break from our everyday lives, but we couldn’t really escape ourselves and our usual problems.
We drove home, quiet, relaxed and on time, with a view of a great Kansas sunset, and my mom looked truly happy. So at least one part of the trip exceeded my expectations.