We arrived at Ronald McDonald House (or Manoir) last night after a very long day of flying. They cancelled our flight in Toronto, so we were rerouted to a different one. To be honest, I had no idea what to expect here. All of our previous stays were at a hotel. We will be staying here until we are admitted to the hospital on Wednesday. I will tell you all about it here:
First of all, this place is very secure. When you arrive, you need to buzz in to enter into the building. At the front door we were greeted by a social worker type person who took me into the boot room. We were told to take off our outdoor shoes in order to keep the house clean. They gave Benjamin and me each a pair of knit slippers to wear. Any time we leave, we drop our slippers in the dirty slipper bin and grab a fresh pair. We were then escorted to the office where we discussed rules and arrangements: they all seemed rather simple and were based on common sense issues.
When you walk in the place is immaculate. You enter into a common area where there are computers, couches, a piano, and a giant stuffed teddy bear. Ronald is discreetly hiding in the corner. When you continue walking, you enter the residence area. There are 50 rooms in the house, and each can hold up to four guests. The rooms are clean when you arrive with fresh sheets and towels waiting. You are responsible for cleaning the room when you leave and putting your stuff in the laundry (they wash them). There are also washers and dryers available for families. The rooms are pretty standard…two beds, bath, recliner, drawers, etc.
There are no TV’s in the rooms, and I think the wifi is either sketchy or I haven’t figured out how to access it properly (I am typing this in the common room), so in order to do these two things, you need to leave your room. The third floor is a great place to do that. There are three comfortable, huge tv rooms, as well as small conversation rooms, and (of course) play rooms. It seems you can always find a quiet comfortable place to be. Ben and I spent some time playing with a little four year old girl today that is also awaiting surgery.
The lower level is all about the kitchen and eating area. I was pleasantly surprised to see no deep fryers anywhere! Each family is given a key to a little cupboard in the kitchen where they can keep their own food. We are also given access to spots in the fridge and the freezer. There is also common food available for people like us who just don’t have time to shop. Ben and I had toast and yogurt from the common food late last night. I see that there is homemade vegetable soup there today as well. There are also a lot of other items available to families. It feels great to be able to cook and do whatever the heck you want in the kitchen. Language is an issue in the house here. Most people speak either French, English, or Spanish and it seems that every time I am in the kitchen it is one of each of us in there. I have learned how to charade out some awkward conversations. We all contribute to chores in the house. It was my turn to wash the sinks in the kitchen today. There is a commercial dishwasher in the kitchen that we all use…last one to fill it has to run it , wait the three minutes it takes to wash, and put all the dishes away. I like the chores and working together – you quickly get to know the place and it begins to feel like home.
Beyond lodging, meals, and entertainment, the House offers something even more special and priceless to families. It’s a sense of community. Parents all on a journey – different ones for sure – have a connected commonality that can’t be found in a lonely hotel room. This connection goes far beyond a place, a province, or even a country. It’s the knowing smiles that greet you in the hallway, and the “I get it” looks that go far beyond language. Today when we arrived home, there were notes on all our doors inviting us to a special dinner in the kitchen tomorrow. This sense of community goes beyond the House. This morning we left the house early. Later when I was in the hospital, a woman who is also staying at the house saw me and said “hey – you were up and out early today”. I laughed…home away from home is right!
Since Benjamin was born, there are often times where I have felt like a passenger in his journey to health. This can be frustrating and overwhelming for a person like me who likes to control everything. I think the Ronald McDonald House is a great place to feel like a driver for just a little while, and for that, I am truly grateful.
Tomorrow is Benjamin’s last day of freedom for a while. I told him we could do anything he wants tomorrow. We have looked through travel books, tourist brochures, and movie guides. When I said “so, what do you want to do?” He said, “I want to stay at Donald’s House – this is awesome”. Thanks Ronald!