I have to say that overall growing up in the hotel business didn’t suck. In fact it was pretty great. I mean what kid wouldn’t want to be able to call room service and order whatever kind of food they wanted, have an indoor/outdoor swimming pool year round, maids to make their beds, pick up towels, and loads of other fun hotel perks. Free candy in the gift shop anyone? Rides on bellman’s carts through the lobby? All you can eat ice cream with chocolate sauce served in a Styrofoam cup. I still remember how that French vanilla ice cream tasted. Yum! I could just go right into the kitchen and serve myself. It seemed like a regular kitchen to me. Didn’t everyone have ten different ice cream flavors to choose from in their own kitchen complete with a chef that they called “Chef”?
Well I guess not, and I probably knew that as a kid. I knew that growing up in a hotel made me feel special. I felt special just being the General Manager’s daughter. Plus if anyone in the hotel questioned something I did, I would politely explain that “yes I was allowed to do that because I am Marc Leffman, the General Manager’s daughter.” Just stating the facts. I wasn’t bratty about it, I swear!
My mom’s favorite story is about my fourth birthday party. We had it in the ballroom of the Sheraton Savannah Inn. They invited my whole preschool class. When one of the little boys walked in he asked my Mom “is this Kelly’s living room?” And in fact it kind of was. I viewed each and every hotel that we lived as kind of like my house. Sometimes we did live directly in the hotel. Other times we lived off property in a regular house. I still spent quite a bit of time at the hotel. Since my Dad worked a lot of long hours I think my Mom felt the only way my brother and I would get to see him was if we were at the hotel too. I never felt out of place in his office or anywhere in the hotel for that matter. It was my home and I was allowed most anywhere. And in the hotel business you just never know where you are going to end up. One month you are in Atlanta and the next you are getting transferred to Cleveland or Little Rock or Dallas. The list goes on. People always assumed when I told them that I moved around a lot that I was an army brat. Nope. Just a hotel kid.
As a hotel kid you don’t just get one type of peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I remember in Virginia my Dad created a whole peanut butter and jelly bar complete with all different kind of breads, jams, fruit’s, nuts, candies, you name it to make the ultimate pb&j. As a hotel kid one of my favorite foods early on was prime rib. I think I was three years old. I called it “crime rib.” Eventually shrimp cocktail and French onion soup was some of my other favorites. My husband laughs at me because he didn’t have his first cut of prime rib until he was 12-years- old! I have very fond memories of hotel food. I cannot explain enough how cool it was to order room service to be delivered to the pool when I had friends over. They couldn’t believe the stuff we were allowed to order. But it didn’t seem weird or out of the ordinary to me. It’s just room service, I would say. It’s no big deal. It wasn’t until I started to live on my own as an adult and go places that I discovered that wow things in a hotel really cost a lot of money. I guess as a kid I never had to notice the $15 price listed next to the club sandwich. I would just sign my Dad’s name and enjoy my lobster bisque and strawberry short high cake (another one of my Dad’s creations).
Now I know that being a hotel kid sounds like it’s all fun and games and escargot, but it wasn’t. The moving around was hard. Making new friends every six months sucked. I know my Dad is very proud of the fact that he managed to stay at one hotel the entire time I was in high school. We spent six years in Cleveland, and then we left. But then I came back and married my best friend. We still live in Cleveland and have blessed my parents with two darling granddaughters. Now my daughters associate my parents with hotels, of course. They know which hotels Gramma Colleen and Grandpa Marc stay in when they come to visit. And just the other day they were here and stayed in the very same hotel that my Dad managed when they lived here. It was odd being in that hotel again. It was my home for six years. I do look at it like an old house, an old friend. Plus the swimming pool is still great! Now my daughters get a little taste of what it’s like to be a “hotel kid” and they love it.
Kelly Leffman Reising, Guest Writer
Sep 10, 2006.