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Me, angrily, to Zoe: “I don’t think anyone in this family listens to me.”
Zoe, reflectively: “Sometimes I feel the same way. I bet Daddy feels the same way too. Everybody has feelings.”
I’m really done now, but here are a few more photos from our trip I couldn’t resist posting. Some are from the children’s museum in Honolulu, which includes rooms representing countries from which many Hawaiians are descended. One is from after the rehearsal dinner when Zoe and I are sitting in the hotel lobby and she’s doing the aloha sign. And a couple are Zoe chasing gulls on the beach at Sans Souci. Now I’m done.
When Randy was nine, his parents separated for a year. During that time, Randy and his mom and sister moved to Holliston, Massachusetts to live with his mom’s brother’s family. Hu and Caroline are the parents. Clint and Roz are the kids. Randy and Clint are close in age and shared a room. I think prior to that Randy and Clint had always gotten along well, but this time together cemented their relationship. Clint was the brother Randy never had. They drove go-karts in the backyard, played games on the Commodore 64, and went sledding and exploring.
Much later, after college, Randy was looking for something to do and moved to Boston. He lived with Clint again, this time in less spacious surroundings, sharing a one-bedroom apartment in Jamaica Plain, where Randy slept in the living room and there was little illusion of privacy. The train going by outside rattled the whole apartment. Even after this, they remained good friends.
So Randy was thrilled and honored when Clint invited us to be part of his and Joanne’s wedding celebration in Hawaii. Zoe was thrilled and honored when Joanne asked if she would be the flower girl. None of us had been to Hawaii and we were delighted to have such a special occasion as our excuse to make the trip.
Joanne was extraordinarily thoughtful and meticulous in planning the wedding and making sure that all of us were taken care of. She picked out a beautiful flower girl dress for Zoe, along with a flowered headpiece and little satin basket. She mailed us print-outs of maps and information about the wedding-related activities and locations. We were impressed by her kindness and graciousness in every detail leading up to and during the wedding, even down to the gift she selected for Zoe to thank her for being a flower girl–a little jewelry box with a ballerina that dances to a piece from Swan Lake when you open the box. Joanne herself is a ballerina, as well as nearing completion of her doctorate doing research into cancer drugs.
So we, along with Hu and Caroline, Joanne’s mom Esther (who came from Singapore for the wedding), and Joanne’s sister Rachel and Rachel’s son Mathieu (who came from Paris for the wedding), had a marvelous time.
Randy and I especially enjoyed learning about and observing some of the traditional Chinese wedding rituals that Joanne and Clint included in the celebration. Clint had to spend the night in a different hotel the night before the wedding and arrive at the door of Joanne’s room early the next day to try to bribe his way in. Traditionally, the would-be groom must offer the bride’s family increasing amounts of money, in little red envelopes, until the family is satisfied with the price. The cash is not sufficient, however. The bride’s family can also ask the groom to perform any number of feats of intellect or strength or bravery, such as doing push-ups or sit-ups, eating or drinking very spicy things, or answering riddles. Since there were so few people there, Clint didn’t have too tough of a time. He negotiated mainly with Rachel, who was firm but not unreasonable. I’m not sure what the final price was, but Rachel took a picture of Esther holding a check. I’m pretty sure it won’t be cashed.
Zoe wanted to participate in the testing, so I asked her to come up with a riddle. We thought of one prominently featured in an episode of Dora, the Explorer, when the ugly old troll asks Dora and Boots to solve his riddle before they can cross the bridge: What goes up when rain comes down? Easy, right? Apparently Clint is too smart for his own good. He suggested temperature, air pressure, the barometer, and various other answers before someone gave him a clue that the desired answer was umbrella. Zoe also asked him to do five jumping jacks. He did a great job.
After he passed the tests, Clint had to go into the three-bedroom penthouse suite where Joanne and the bride and groom’s parents were all staying, and find Joanne behind one of the many closed doors. He did.
We then sat down for the Chinese tea ceremony. There was a script written out in Mandarin and English. Luckily we were allowed to participate in English. Clint and Joanne served tea to Hu and Caroline, who then presented them with gifts in red envelopes. Then the couple served Esther, Rachel, and us, all of whom gave the couple red envelopes as well. We each sipped the sweet tea, except for Randy, who threw it back as if it were a shot. After the tea ceremony we all sampled a variety of Chinese pastries that Joanne and Rachel and Esther had bought in Honolulu’s Chinatown the day before. Zoe wanted some mooncake because she remembered learning about it from Ni Hao, Kai Lan (who knew Nick Jr. would come up so many times during a wedding day?) but decided she actually didn’t like it much.
Everyone who wasn’t getting married lounged around the penthouse for a while, taking in the view from the balconies, while Clint and Joanne changed from their Chinese outfits into their traditional Western wedding attire. We went downstairs to wait for the limo, with Zoe instinctively holding up the train of Joanne’s dress all the way. The limo took us to Waimanalo Beach, which was, as you might imagine, simply stunning.
A native Hawaiian, who had grown up with that beach as his backyard playground, officiated and another local serenaded Clint and Joanne and played the ukelele. Zoe sprinkled the flower petals and Mathieu brought up the rings on a little pillow (with some assistance from Rachel). There was kissing, sparkling cider, and coconut cake. But mostly there was sheer joy and sparkling beauty. Randy and Zoe and Caroline and I played in the surf while the photographer took thousands of pictures of Clint and Joanne. It was unforgettable. I am filled with gratitude that we were able to be there to share the moment with Clint and Joanne and our families. Thanks, guys.
One night while we walked around Waikiki we encountered this balloon artist, to whom Zoe was instantly drawn. He asked what she wanted and said she could basically have anything. She was dumbstruck, so he started offering choices, and had her at princess. He spent easily five to 10 minutes creating this balloon princess. I have never before seen a balloon princess. I was impressed. He said he’s been creating balloon art for 15 years, and that he’s going to attend a balloon art convention in Dallas in the spring, where he will earn a certification in balloon art. Who knew such a thing existed? He did, evidently. Zoe loved Princess Alice and brought her home to introduce her to Ralph (her dog) and her baby doll Eve. Alice lived with us for the rest of the week. Toward the end of the week, unfortunately her face started leaking and got very very very skinny. I should have taken a picture but I didn’t have the heart to. When I told Zoe we couldn’t bring Princess Alice home and that I would have to pop her and throw her away, she was understandably upset. Perhaps that was too cruel? She was a very lovely balloon princess while she lasted.
Joanne reserved a limo to take everyone in the wedding party to the wedding at Waimanalo Beach. The limo looked like a cross between an SUV limo and a pick-up truck. Inside were party lights, two screens showing videos of amazing surfers, and paintings on the ceiling and inside panels of the Manhattan skyline before September 11. It was a pretty cool ride.
Zoe had never ridden in a limo before (nor had several of the adults present. I told Randy I would take him to prom sometime and get him a limo then). She started out sitting with us but quickly decided that the best seat was in the back, next to the bride. Fortunately, Joanne didn’t seem to mind.
We heard from a reliable source, confirmed by guidebooks, that Lanikai Beach, on the windward side of Oahu, was an ideal place to take kids swimming because the water is extremely calm. And it’s beautiful (although I didn’t find a beach in Hawaii that wasn’t). So one day we headed there, probably later than we should have because everything we do takes longer than we think it’s going to, and on vacation is no exception.
We weren’t sure exactly where it was except that it is near Kailua Beach, which has changing facilities (and Lanikai doesn’t). So we went to Kailua and suited up and set out in search of Lanikai. It turns out that Lanikai is only accessible through tiny paths between people’s houses in a residential neighborhood. It’s not technically a park, just an expanse of sand that is so narrow as to be completely underwater in some places. We ventured down one path. It led to rocks, no beach. We ventured down another path. There was a concrete barrier of sorts and two kids banging coconuts on rocks. We thought we must be in the wrong place. It turns out that there are many such little paths and I guess you have to find the right one that leads to the expanse of beach you can actually walk and swim on. But we didn’t.
At this point it was late afternoon, so we were closing in on sunset and desperately wanted a little playtime somewhere. So we headed back toward Kailua and stopped at the first parking lot we could find and raced down to the shore. We decided it was a little too overcast and chilly to swim, but we played in the sand and dipped our toes in the water.
I was disappointed that we hadn’t been able to play at the magical beach, but Zoe was having so much fun she absolutely didn’t care. I am working hard to model my attitude after hers in this way. She is very flexible. She’s often saying to me, “It’s ok, Mommy. Don’t worry about it.”
So I was taking pictures of the scenery and asking Zoe to act out various emotions, as in, “pretend it’s your birthday and someone just gave you the best present ever,” or “pretend you are trying to sneak away from someone.” Then she gave Randy similar instructions. We laughed and played until it was so dark we couldn’t see the ocean at all.
All the guidebooks tell you to have shave ice at Matsumoto’s on the North Shore, but the woman across the aisle from Randy on our flight to Oahu said Aoki’s used better syrup and we should go there instead. So we heeded the advice of a local and made it our first stop on the North Shore.
We drove from Ko’olina on the leeward side of the island up to the North Shore after a long morning of snorkeling and swimming in the sun. So Randy and Zoe slept for most of the drive. But I enjoyed expanses of green pineapple fields punctuated by Norfolk pines, which I hadn’t expected to see in Hawaii but did, all over the place. They are thriving there and they look stunning with the turquoise ocean as a backdrop. We passed the Dole plantation and I woke everyone up when we got to Haleiwa, the little beach town (that oddly reminded me a bit of Duck in the Outer Banks of North Carolina). There we found Aoki’s and indeed, the shave ice was absolutely superb. They offered it with an optional scoop of vanilla ice cream underneath the ice, so when you’re done with the ice the syrup has melted down into the ice cream and it is SO GOOD. I wish I could have some right now.
Seriously. I can’t imagine how Matsumoto’s could possible have been better.
Then we drove from beach to beach in search of surfers in search of waves. Apparently January brings the biggest waves to the North Shore and this attracts skilled surfers or crazy people, or maybe these are one and the same. We didn’t actually see many surfers, but we saw many people bodyboarding on what still seemed like significant waves that would certainly destroy the likes of us. And we basked in these absolutely stunning vistas. This afternoon enough would have justified our whole trip because of the sheer beauty and how it makes your spirit breathe more freely.
Hawaii has so much rich and exotic history that it really does seem like another country. And learning about the history, as well as seeing the native Hawaiians there, made me feel a little weird about the fact that the United States decided, as it had so many times before, and as so many arrogant countries have done, to take it over. Who were we to assume this beautiful place was ours for the taking? I really don’t know the answer (although I’m sure there are plenty of explanations) but I felt a little guilty about it all. Maybe the people there are worse off than they would otherwise have been, maybe better. Maybe I’ll read more about it someday.
We did learn a little about Hawaiian history (and were grateful that a lot of attention is given to it) at the Bishop Museum, which is a beautiful and inviting tribute to Hawaiian geology, anthropology, astronomy, culture, and history. We watched a fun show at the excellent planetarium there and learned what constellations and planets were visible in the winter sky over the Pacific. After that Zoe spotted Jupiter in the evening and I pointed out Orion. Even in the city you can see a million stars.
We attended a lava demonstration where they handed around many kinds of lava for us to touch and spilled molten material out of a large cauldron onto a steel plate, where it quickly cooled and shards of it exploded around the room (behind a mesh screen of course).
We went through a hands-on room where we simulated different phenomena that cause waves and Zoe crawled through a tunnel and slid down a volcano and we saw hundreds of kinds of shells, from the teeny tiny to a few big enough to sit on (but we didn’t).
And we enjoyed learning a simple, seated hula dance. We headed eagerly to the hula demonstration, expecting beautiful girls in grass skirts, leis, and coconut tops. Instead there was a man in a green aloha shirt and a long, gray pony tail, seated on a stool and holding two wooden sticks. Apparently hula just means a song that tells a story. So he taught us a hula about appreciating the world around us, and we echoed his words and used our fingers as our rhythm instruments. It was not particularly sexy or alluring, but it was quite lovely and fun.
Afterward we went out into a verdant courtyard and discovered a small stone stage, where Zoe performed several of her own hula dances. She properly advised before each dance, “Please turn your cell phones off and no flash photography during the performance.”
I will be the first to admit we have a technology addiction issue in our family. So I was hoping to leave the gadgets behind, as much as possible, on our trip to Hawaii. We tend to default to them even if we don’t actually need to check our email or play another move in Words with Friends or update Facebook or whatever silliness we think is urgent. When we have our laptops, we are compelled to work. So we decided to leave our computers at home and pledged to use our phones as little as possible during the trip.
Turns out that in this day and age, that doesn’t really work. We had guidebooks. We had pieces of paper printed out with itineraries and confirmations. But the internet is pretty darn handy when you’re trying to go somewhere. The guidebooks don’t have all the information you need, and they can’t help you find a restaurant when you’re in a random place, like Yelp! can. They don’t always have the updated hours a place is open. Sometimes the phone gives you better directions than the GPS in the car, which doesn’t recognize the name of the beach where you’re going. Sometimes, when you’re waiting to check into a hotel or collect your baggage, playing Words with Friends is a reasonable way to pass the time. When you cleverly take your camera battery out to recharge it and then forget to put it back in the camera the next morning, the iPhone takes pretty excellent photos too. And when you miss your flight, the helpful lady on the other end of the phone can email you your new itinerary and confirmation numbers and you have them handy to show to the person at the desk.
We did an admirable job not using our phones while we were immersed in enjoying paradise. But we did find them quite useful at times, and that was ok.