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Archive for June, 2015

Charlotte

I’m walking along Ala Moana Boulevard and the sun is furiously beating down upon me, its heat bouncing up off the pavement and I am concentrating on each step and wondering how much farther I have to go and how long it will be before I reach the musty coolness of the air conditioned lobby. I’m on that stretch where there are no shops, no trees, no shade of any sort, and just when I think it couldn’t possibly get any hotter a tour bus whizzes by and blows its hot exhaust all around me.

A woman is slowly coming toward me. She’s shuffling more than walking, a slow forward movement with an occasional sway from side to side. Her silver hair pulled in a pony is wispy and coming loose. Her button up shirt is half tucked into the belt of her fanny pack. She is breathing heavy, I can already tell, and she stops, bends down at her waist and puts her palms on her knees. A backpack slides forward toward her head and I worry it will make her fall. This isn’t good, I think to myself as she pulls herself back up and continues toward me.

I reach in my bag for a bottle of water as we approach each other and as I hand it to her, I ask if I can walk with her to some shade a ways behind me. She reaches for the bottle and I know she’s going down, and somehow I manage to both grab her and spin her away from me so that we slowly sink to the concrete together with me cushioning her fall. I struggle to shift us both around a bit so that eventually her head is in my lap and I lean down to feel her breath on my cheek and the heat of the cement is burning my legs. I wet the bottom of my skirt with the water and mop it along her brow and she opens her eyes and looks at me, confused and disoriented. She tries to sit up, but is woozy and it’s so blasted hot that I tell her to just lay still for a bit in my lap and we can talk and get to know each other a little better.

Someone passing by has called for paramedics and a foreign tourist is now trying to shade us with her umbrella. I smooth her hair in gentle strokes while I tell her about my boys and my chickens and I feel her body start to relax and her breathing starts to calm. I learn her name is Charlotte and that she is from Seattle. She tells me she was walking to the Hilton Hawaiian Village to get some Honolulu Cookie Company cookies for her grandchildren, and I laugh and pull a box from my bag. I’ll get more for Addison and Hayden tomorrow before I go I say, and I tuck them into her backpack.

An ambulance arrives and phone calls are made and soon Charlotte is gone, as is the foreign tourist with the umbrella, and it is just me standing in the heat on the sidewalk. I turn toward the hotel and concentrate on each step and wonder again how much farther I have to go and how long it will be…

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He Sat with Me

He sat with me on the kitchen linoleum, tirelessly showing me over and again how to tie the laces on my sneakers. I think they were red. Or maybe they were blue. I don’t remember all the details, but I do remember his patience.

He sat on a plastic sled holding me tightly as we raced down snow covered hills, and carried me on his shoulders when we trudged back to the top. I don’t remember all the details, but I do remember his strength.

He sat in the front passenger seat with the newspaper spread wide, engrossed in a news story while I held up traffic because I couldn’t manage the clutch. I got out, slammed the door and stomped home, leaving him to finish his article and then hopefully slide over to the driver’s side and get that car out of the way. I don’t remember all the details, but I do remember him believing in me more than I ever believed in myself.

He, along with my mother, sat with his arms around me while I struggled through heartache, darkness, and despair. He cried along with me while I tried desperately to find the light again. I don’t remember all the details, but I do remember his unconditional love.

He sat in the rocker with my newborn son in his arms, and told me that he was a perfect and beautiful miracle, and when he said that, it allowed me to let go of the fear and uncertainty that lie in the surgeries ahead, and to see my child as nothing less than perfect as well. I don’t remember all the details, but I do remember the comfort in his certainty.

He sat on the other end of the line countless times as I called asking if things could be designed, built, repaired, or even imagined. I don’t remember all the details, but I do remember his enthusiasm.

I don’t remember all the details, but I do remember that I wouldn’t be the person I am today if you hadn’t been the dad you’ve always been to me.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.

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Laughing in the Face of Death

Oh lord. We had the best day! We rented a car and went exploring. Went to several little towns, ate great food in each, saw beautiful sites. We had no map and were just having the most fun driving through neighborhoods and pretending we lived here. We laughed and talked and oohed and ahhed over the houses, the views, a hot guy on a motorcycle. So much fun!

We were out quite a ways who knows where and ended up driving past an isolated, gorgeous resort — the Ritz Carlton. Beautiful area. The scenery was breathtaking. I said, “Wow, no wonder the celebrities come here. It’s so much more private and remote than the Four Seasons or the Grand Wailea. Nobody out here to bother them. Let’s go that way,” and pointed left. Tracy turned the car onto a wide, well paved, new, beautiful road that wound along the ocean.

We were driving through lush jungle that would suddenly have seriously breathtaking views of the water and then you would go back into a canopy of trees. I said, “Oh my gosh! This HAS to be in all the guide books! We have accidentally stumbled upon something that everyone else probably plans their whole Hawaiian vacation around doing. All those people reading books about Maui on the plane, THIS has to be what they are reading about!”

Occasionally we would see clusters of cars parked to the side of the road and we wondered which waterfall or remote beach people were hiking to. We knew the sun would soon set, and were looking for some fun spot to stop and watch the sun fall into the ocean. Somehow, we didn’t notice that the wide, safe road had turned into a smaller, two lane road. And then an even narrower road. The scenery just kept getting more beautiful as the road twisted and turned. But we were passing very, very few cars, there were no more houses, really nothing at all but gorgeous scenery. We figured, it’s an island, this road has to be in the guidebooks, eventually we’ll end up in another little town. And pressed on. And on and on.

Eventually we came across a van pulled to the side of the narrow road, a husband and two kids waiting for the mom to take a picture. Tracy pulled up behind him and I hopped out, carefully walked up to the driver’s side, fully in the road to do so. Tracy yelled, “Elizabeth, watch out!” as a car whizzed past just inches from me in the other lane. The man was a foreign tourist, but spoke English, and I asked him if he knew where this road led and how far it was from something, anything. He said, “I think if you go about 30 minutes, you’ll be at the airport.” I looked up the road doubtfully and asked him if he was sure and told him I was afraid the road may just come to an end. He said he was pretty sure it would lead to the airport and if it didn’t, his plan was to turn around. I looked hesitantly at the setting sun, knew that if we turned around, we were so far in that we would surely face those twisty, curvy roads in the dark, and said okay, we would press on.

As we drove, the road suddenly, without any signs of warning, went from newish asphalt with brightly painted lines to shoddy pavement, crumbling asphalt, no shoulder, no guard rails, faded lines. We were winding further into the cliffs and valleys. But the airport couldn’t be far, right? Surely we would soon round a bend and see the town stretched out below us.

Suddenly, one of us, I’m not sure which, gasped. We were on a one lane road full of hairpin turns, with no guard rails, wedged between the side of a mountain and a sheer cliff dropping who knows how many hundreds of feet to certain death. We started laughing at our ability to find adventure together, and I began to question whether I was actually in full blown crazy panic as I realized that my laughter could just as easily turn to sobs.

The road had narrowed to such a point that you could see paint from other cars etched into the mountain side, as other idiot tourists like us had probably hugged the mountain side of the road to keep from driving off the cliff side into a deep abyss of jungle, then ocean. My hand was clutching the car door so tightly I left fingernail impressions in the brand new leather of the full size rental car. Tracy sat straight up at the steering wheel, her knuckles white, her back rigid. Our car literally took up the entire width of the road. There were hairpin curves, completely blind, and no possible way we could back up. Tracy would honk and flash the lights as we rounded each hairpin turn at a snails pace of 3 miles per hour.

We saw a sign for falling rocks and saw rocks strewn across the road in front of us. All we wanted was to turn around, but that was an absolute impossibility. One of us began to whimper, something about what would we do if a car came toward us. I said we would stop. That we would wait until the other car gave in and began to reverse its way back down around the blind curves and sheer cliffs. That there was no way in hell we would reverse. She said, “So we would watch them plummet to their death?” to which I shocked even myself when I replied, “Better them than us.” Heck. I have kids to get home to. I was in survival mode and we were getting off this road come hell or high water.

We began to wonder what on earth this road was, and where were the signs warning us to not go on, back when there actually was a chance to turn around?! Had we somehow stumbled on the Road to Hana?! Because it’s all twisty and curvy and scary as heck. It’s got to be in a guide book somewhere. Where the F**K are we?!

Tracy starts rambling on about some Criminal Minds episode where the characters are abducted in a similar setting and brutally murdered. We begin to argue about whether or not we will ask for help should we come across someone again. The sky is getting darker and we have had no service on our phones for at least the past half hour. We are isolated, alone, and scared out of our minds at the thought of plummeting to our deaths, being crushed by falling boulders, or being brutally murdered in the middle of nowhere.

We see what we now realize is the third hand painted sign advertising Julia’s Famous Banana Bread. We allow a little bit of hope to seep into our minds. Julia will help us. She will point the way to a modern highway and send us on our way with a piece of her banana bread, and we will soon laugh and reminisce about that time we accidentally stumbled upon what we would later discover was one of the most dangerous roads in the US.

We round a bend and see below us the most beautiful, idyllic little village. Surely we will discover there was a safe road leading out the other side, and what fools were we for coming upon it from some back road. Tracy is still certain we are going to be abducted and sold as middle aged sex slaves and is insisting I not get out of the car as we approach a local couple working on their shanty shed. I argue what choice do we have, and she tells me, “Just so you know, if they kill you I’m leaving you!” and I hesitantly open the door, knowing she’s probably telling me the truth, but also thinking if it came down to it and anyone ever would come in to save my ass, it would be her, in full Tracy fanfare.

I walk up to the couple, the woman looking at me suspiciously, and in my sweetest please don’t kill me voice say, “Excuse me. We were just driving, enjoying the scenery, and somehow unexpectedly ended up on this road. We have no idea where we are or where we’re going, or how to get there. Does this road continue on, or should we turn around?” The woman looks at the man, rolls her eyes, and with half a shoulder shrug asks me which hotel we are staying at. They talk quietly to each other for a second and she says we need to keep going, that we will be fine, our car has head lights. I ask her where we will end up and does the road get any better. She says it will take us about another 45 minutes and the road is okay in some spots, but mostly more of the same that we just came in on.

I get back in the car and some kids run past. A little girl calls out, “You’ll be fine. Just keep going up the lane.” And they run off into the tiny village of 100 people that we later learn is the most remote village on the island. Tracy pulls back on to the semblance of a road and we hold our breath as the sluggish rental car begins to climb its way out of the valley….

Somehow we survive and long after dark make it off the Kahekili Highway, which is by no means a highway (and most certainly is deficient in signage and guard rails), but is in fact a two hour drive on a road that is actually far more treacherous, notorious, and scenic than the better known Road to Hana.

Another Trae and Ellie adventure for the books.

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Y’All Stop Laughing!

Patrick: Uh huh. Okay. I’ll meet you at the gas station in about 40 minutes. Be sure to bring a box. See you then.

*He hangs up the phone and looks at me, expectantly looking at him.*

Me(nervously): Well, what do you think? Did he sound okay?

P: Sure. He’s fine.

Me: But what did he say?

P: Just that they’ve been looking for a cream Legbar rooster for a while. They want to breed him to their hens.

Me: What else did he say?

P: He sounded legit. Don’t be so worried. He said he’d be driving a green Nissan Leaf. He’s into the environment. I’m sure he’s not into cock fighting.

Me(reluctantly): Okay. But how did he sound?

P: I don’t know. Like a farmer.

Hayden(laughing): Is that what mom sounds like on the phone? A farmer?

Addison(also laughing): Totally! She always says “y’all!”

Me: No I don’t.

All of them in chorus(laughing): Yes you do!

Addison: You say “Y’all this” and “Y’all that” ALL THE TIME!

Me: I do not! Can’t you see I’m stressing out here? Y’all just need to leave me alone.

All of them(laughing hysterically): See! You just said it! You’re a farmer!

Me(stomping off): Pffttt. Y’all are a bunch of farm ANIMALS. With no feelings. And no empathy. Ha. A farmer. Like that’s a bad thing. I WISH I was a farmer. Then I’d actually live on a farm. And I wouldn’t have to sell my rooster. Y’all just need to STOP laughing at me!

*The sound of their howling, hooting, hollering and knee slapping followed me all the way outside to the coop.*

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