I'm afraid I've sounded ungrateful. Okay, yes, I can just see a few of you nodding your heads...
When I really, truly realized that our family of six was going to have the fantastic privilege of going to Hawaii all together, I was stunned at our good fortune. I was deeply grateful to my in-laws for paying for their grandchildren's plane tickets. I was amazed that my kids, not of a wealthy family, would have the honor of saying, "We went to Hawaii on summer vacation!" I was so glad my brother-in-law and sister-in-law had invited us to their exotic nuptials.
I just forgot there would be traffic in Hawaii - especially on heavily-populated Oahu. I forgot there would be large cities and all the mess and disarray that crowds of human beings living in proximity entail. I didn't fully understand, I guess, that all of Hawaii wasn't a strand of lonely, wild Polynesian islands. I didn't contemplate the fact that less than grand hotel suites exist everywhere - especially not at those prices!
But do you think I lost my sense of good fortune? Well, okay, maybe that first afternoon....but it quickly returned, I assure you.
It returned when we drove out of Waikiki that very next day, I said to my husband, "Wow, it feels like we can finally breath - just being out of the city."
And my man, a city man all his life, answered, "I know, right?"
Even he had felt suffocated by the traffic and the tall buildings of greater Honolulu.
We arrived at Diamond Head and hunted for parking. (Trust me, you must get there by 7-8 in the morning if you hope to find any.) My husband began to drive into a large tunnel cutting through the rim of that volcanic crater to more parking on the other side when we were startled by a blaring, insistent horn. It felt as if we were in a movie, our car rattling down railway tracks toward a train that was guaranteed to crush us in the gloom, but it wasn't a train; it was a tour bus. I'm amazed my husband didn't cuss, locked in its narrow path...or maybe he did, and my mind had blocked out everything but the gaudy, brightly-hued colossal that hadn't slowed down one bit. Matthew hit the gas and reversed in such a way it rivaled any pretty boy maneuvers in some spy thriller. Tour buses in Oahu can be black-hearted villains beneath all that bright paint. When we had to enter the tunnel once more, because all parking was full, Matthew fled faster than the 15mph speed limit, getting through that tunnel in lightning speed to avoid any more behemoths filled with fellow tourists.
But I digress. We joined up with Matthew's parents and brother Robert after parking in a community college lot. We risked the tunnel on foot and entered the crater for our hike. Diamond Head was an experience - at times a scary one as my four-year-old walked too close to the path's plummeting edge or climbed winding stairs with but one high rail to contain a fall - but an experience. The sets of steep stairs will test the integrity of shins and knees; the dark tunnels will test your love of daylight; the crowds in cramped spaces will test your love of fellow man; but the vistas will reinforce your love of nature. And the number of people hiking in dresses and flimsy sandals with no drinking water will confound you.
Our day was not nearly done. After eating a fortifying lunch at McDonald's, we drove to Makapu'u Point. I was hoping for more hiking, but the lookout itself was so beautiful, we were satisfied. And we'd left the crowds behind.
This was the Hawaii we had envisioned, and the color of the water was all that we'd heard it was from people who had actually vacationed on beautiful islands before.
Matthew told the kids, and by default me, "Don't get wet above the knees - just to the knees, hear me? We didn't bring a change of clothes."
Unused as we were to the prospect of a beach day, we had neglected to bring swim suits, but that didn't impede our fun at all. As soon as that surf swirled about our ankles, we were lost in Neverland - eternal children, awestruck and giggling at our good fortune and our bravery. My father-in-law was holding my purse like a true gentleman. Grandma and Uncle Robert linked hands with Daniel, Ana, and Ella. I closed the link, and my girls and boy in turn jumped into the incoming water, squeezing the hands of their adults, and then the kids and I squealed as we pulled frantically back from the powerful surf and receding tide, dreading being pulled out toward the surfers who we must then rely on to save us. My wonderful mother-in-law reminisced about her childhood near Galveston and doing just this exercise of surf splashing all the time as a little girl. It seemed to go on forever, and we didn't notice at all that we were venturing farther and farther out, the water marks on our clothes advancing well above the knees.
When I finally found my feet on dry sand, Danny was playing in a little pool of ocean water in a broad dip in the sand. Some little boys there had boogey boards which they generously offered to share with Ella and Daniel. I forgot Matthew's edicts, and let the kids go full-belly, full-tilt into the little pool.
"Honeeey..."reproved Matthew. He had resisted the allure of the surf. Poor guy, he so often has to be the adult. I remember too well the temptations of childhood to restrain them as I ought.
It was time to clean up as best we could. We didn't even have towels. Daniel rode back to Waikiki in underwear, poor fella, and the rest of us sopped our seats and created a terrible sand apocalypse in our rented vehicle. I'm still surprised we haven't gotten a letter from the rental car company informing us that the van was irreversibly sand-ridden and salt-water smelly, and we must pay a hefty fine or buy the thing outright, paying for shipping cross-Pacific.
But we didn't, and I'll never forget that great, full day. We were thrilled to be in Hawaii.