"So, Ma," I asked. "What do you think of Hawaii?" It was 2005 and we had arrived only the day before for an unplanned stop over on the way back from Japan. There was some time left in our vacation with my aunt and cousin so the three of us decided to visit Hawaii for one last hurrah before heading home. The aunt and cousin had never been to Hawaii before, indeed, they'd never been to any of the places we visited on this trip, and Mom had not returned to the 50th state in over 30 years so we figured why not? Today found us on the North Shore facing the massive expanse of the Central Pacific from a high overview.
"Not enough land for all that water" was her now famous reply. Charged with a heady mixture of absolute fear of open water along with memories of the tsunami reports coming from Bali in 2004 Mom saw very little in the way of scenic beauty. While not visibly shaking in her shoes she gamely went along with us for the ride around the island fighting to keep an eye on the road and the water at the same time.
We weren't there in time for the famous "Big Wave" season when surfers the world over arrive to tackle seasonal waves coming from as far as Japan and culminating in monster waves up to 20 or more feet high. That was a good thing if for no other reason than traffic was non-existent, no more than the usual island trade plus a few other curious tourists who chose to venture beyond the pineapple plantations in the center of the island. For me it was a first because I had never completely circumnavigated an entire island before and it gave me a first real perspective on the size of Oahu, 2nd largest in the chain, compared to the largest body of water on the planet. Maybe Mom was stating the truth after all.
We chose a random beach to pull over and get out of the car for a little while where three of us lit out for the water as soon as we could get our shoes off. There was no tide, the surf almost non-existent - for that side of Hawaii, anyway - and the air and water cool, blue and inviting. My aunt could barely contain her glee as she hopped in and out of the water, recalling one good story after another of her days as a young girl in South America. My cousin was pleased to simply stroll in the waves as they lapped over the sands while I made as big a splash as someone my size would be expected to make. That's when the screaming started.
"Come out of that water!" Over and over again Mother implored us all to leave the waves which in her opinion were far too high and strong. "You gonna get pulled out to sea! Y'all get outta the water!" One wave had indeed snuck up behind auntie and flattened her on the beach. When she reappeared in the froth, hair all off on one side, salt and sand in everything else, she was howling with laughter, free of the cares of the world once more.
"I give up," Mom declared. "Y'all drown if you want to, I can't watch. I'm going to the car." One and all made it home just fine.