I know it sounds like a dream, your mom turning to you in conversation over breakfast, “hey, do you want to go to Hawai’i?” Hmm, yeah, how about you twist my arm a little and get me to accompany you to paradise?!
Only it sort of isn’t so simple in a way. You see, my family and I moved to Hawai’i from Fiji when I was 13 (almost 14). I went back and forth from Hawai’i to Japan and Taiwan for years, leaving for the last time when I was 20 years old to teach elementary school in Macau.
Hawai’i was my home base for 7 years, it was where my parents lived. It was from Hawai’i that I graduated from high school and university.
But moving to Hawai’i as a deaf, awkward white kid from Fiji really sucked.
It was challenging on a level that makes me perpetually happy that I’m not that young anymore – wrinkles, weight gain, sun spots and all the rest of the aging baggage – hold nothing on the misery of being a young teenage nerdy, poor, minority (oh my God! I just realized why I love “Everybody Hates Chris”!).
Back to my story. Where was I? Oh right, my mom was asking me if I’d like to go back to Hawai’i.
When she asked if I’d like to go, it was very clear to me that I did want to go back. For the first time in 23 years, I honestly wanted to go back.
But it was only after we stepped off the plane in Kona on the Big Island that it hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks: holy cow. This is HOME. Part of my heart is here, along with oceans of memories, precious ones of living and working with my brother Dana.
I have friends in Hawai’i. I know to call my elders “auntie” and “uncle”, and I know how to shut louvered windows. I know the layout of the Big Island, there are streets whose names have long since slipped from my mind yet the curve of their way is embedded in me. I know what’s good to order in most restaurants and I know what to expect from a well-made loco moco.
In fact, after a few meals on the Big Island, Mikey turned to me and said, “I understand your cooking a lot more now.”
Everything there felt like a big hunk of salve being slathered over my hurting heart.
I can’t even begin to tell you what a soul-jerk it was to see our kids playing in the same way that I remember Dana and I playing: making stuff out of huge tropical leaves. And swimming.
We all went to Hapuna – a beach I used to go to when I was in university. My brother and his small family and I would load up in our tiny car, or I’d go with my best friend Kozaburo. Either way, I spent a fair amount of time at that beach. Great small waves, awesome laid back vibes.
Our kids boogie boarding? Moxie just jumping in and kicking ass at it? Priceless.
Huh? Why not? Anyone going to tell me something about Moxie being different from the rest of the crew with Down syndrome? Because if you are, you are WRONG. She’s completely “normal” on the Down syndrome spectrum. Right-smack average.
So how about we had that to the list, yeah? “Your child is coming with an extra chromosome. She may be an awesome boogie boarder.”
I like that.