See my previous entry on kinship here.
As we sit by our gate at LAX, waiting patiently to board our flight (that is delayed yet again), I realize we are only halfway to our destination after what already seems like a full day of traveling. For a moment I wonder if we are crazy for trying to embark on roughly 12 hours of flight with a newborn and a toddler to visit a place we’ve only been to once before but the memory of which has called us back ever since. Maybe we romanticized this trip because the last time we visited there we got engaged. Or maybe the journey didn’t seem so long before because we lived a shorter flight away on the west coast back then. Or maybe it just seemed simpler because we had no kids at the time. Didn’t everything seem simpler then?
But then we get our cue to board. We snuggle into each other in our seats and all fall asleep for the last half of our trip. When we land, it is dark in Kaua’i. The air feels heavy and warm. We, half-asleep and fully exhausted, make our way to our hotel.
When I wake up again, it’s my birthday. Everyone else is still asleep, but the time difference has me up before the sun. I go down to the beach outside our hotel to watch the sunrise and reflect on how blessed I am to be here. “Here” meaning this stage of my life and my family, this point in my career, this age, and this literal, physical place. I return to my room full of gratitude and my husband and daughters are awake by now. My husband turns to our oldest daughter and whispers in her ear and then, as if they have practiced it a hundred times, together they shout “happy ‘prize!” (which is her way of saying “happy surprise” and celebrating any occasion, big or small), and they sing a very cute version of “happy birthday” to me.
We take our time getting ready for the day and then take a short trip across the island. We hike down a trail and over some rocks to what feels like the edge of the world where the waves crash against the Queen’s Bath. The next day we follow a trail through the woods to a waterfall. Noelani cheers daddy on as he jumps over the falls and Niara takes her first dip in the waters above the falls. The days that follow are filled with the same but different: more hikes, more waterfalls, more beaches, more breathtaking views, more adventures with my favorite people. We take our girls to most of our favorite places from the last time we were here, but also explore some new spots for the first time together. Niara is still new to this world and asleep half the time, but Noelani is awake for it all, and I wonder if she realizes that we have traveled halfway across the world to fill these days with intentional memories in this special place or does she think this is just a different part of Washington, DC she hasn’t seen before?
Will she look back at these travels and remember all of the big moments we carefully curated for her? Will she remember how she tried escargot in that small cafe at the foot of the Eiffel Tower? Or how a local shop owner insisted she ride his donkey through the medina in Fez like a tiny celebrity? Or the first time she dipped her feet in the Mediterranean Sea and yelled out, “So cold!” when the water touched her toes?
And if not all the big moments, will she remember the smaller, more seemingly mundane things from these travels? Like how we collected small flowers from the ground wherever we walked? Or that we built imaginary castles out of sticks on the beach? Or how she skipped stones with daddy at the edge of the Irish Sea?
And if not those either, will she at least remember feeling safe and supported as we carried her in the sling when she got tired? Or the kindness of strangers who offered her small trinkets everywhere we went? Or how much we smiled and laughed for reasons even I can’t remember now? Or how all four of us piled into the bed and fell asleep holding each other each day after our adventures?
I’m not sure what she will remember from these trips… If all the details will be a blur, or if they will be imprinted on her for always. I do know that for now, we’ll continue to show her the world and fill her days with new experiences and adventures, together as a family. And even if she doesn’t remember, seeing the joy on her face in the moment as she discovers something new, still makes it worthwhile for me. But every now and then I get hints that she is storing these moments somewhere in her own way. Just recently we were sitting at home when out of nowhere she turned to me and said, “Mommy, ‘member when we took an airplane and went to Hawai’i and you made me like a mermaid on the beach?” “Yes baby, I remember.”