For those of you who don't know, this is Rick Steves:
He is a travel author, TV travel host, avid piano player, the list goes on. Over the years, I would catch his show on PBS and reluctantly be swept away as he strolled through many European cities, talking to sheep and wearing Lederhosen. Why with reluctance you ask? My heart was clouded with envy. That's it-pure envy. I would ask out loud to the TV set, "Why Rick?". "Why do you get to have this cool-times-a-gazillion job? Why do you get to crack lame jokes with french puns while standing in the Luberon? After all, you have an almost squeaky voice and wear 1980's glasses." Or I would say something like, " Blah blah blah Rick! Who doesn't have a real Irish wool sweater?!" Well no longer. I will not let this negativity keep our friendship from blossoming Rick. I will no longer pretend not to laugh at your jokes just to hurt you. I will confess that you deserve this job. You are more than good at it and you are actually a good guy (he and his wife sunk their retirement into an apartment complex and turned it into a safehouse for women). I will walk by my complete boxed set of your Europe Through the Back Door DVD's without rolling my eyes. And I will no longer stick my tongue out at you during your 17 step spa treatment in Baden-Baden. So here's to you Rick-glasses and all. You are, without a doubt, the Man.
All good things must come to an end. And there is no better way to wrap up a vacation than to have a Thanksgiving feast with loved ones. One of my favorite things is the buzz in the kitchen before the meal. Thanks Mom, for all the prep work and beautiful table setting. Everyone made such great food, though the company was even better (barely). We flew home sitting this way. We told the kids to check their chutes to make sure they were ready for the jump once we had crossed the ocean. They didn't appreciate the joke.
Seth loved being outside and was quite the adventurer. Mmmmmmm. Leonard's hot malasadas (Portugese hole-less donut rolled in cinnamon and sugar)-doesn't get much better than that. I know family-I'll give a shout out to Dee-Lite's malasadas as well. There was lots to explore and the girls found some of our old paths around the property. The kids had to run down to give Shawn good morning hugs. Sometimes very early.
The morning after Shawn returned home, we were off to Travis Air Force Base to catch a flight home to Hawai'i. The military allows military families to travel on their daily cargo and refeuling missions on a variety of different aircraft. They basically load us into whatever space was not filled for their specific mission. This means that we may fly a puddle jumper with parachute seats or a larger aircraft with commercial seats. The crews have all been fun to fly with and willing to answer any questions about the plane we are on. On the way there, we flew a refeuling mission which adds a little flight time but is no big deal. This plane had reclining mats with joysticks below where the crew lays to refeul planes. Pretty cool stuff.
I remember flying home during the college years and how much I loved the last little stretch that takes us over the Honolulu city lights. It meant I was home. Each time I step off the plane, I can count on the same three things happening. First, the wet air turns my skin into a sponge. Second, the smell of any given flower in the breeze takes away the blur of a long flight. And lastly, I find myself asking why I am living someplace else. The kids immediately start the excited talk of swimming, sand play, cousin time, and how they can't wait to see Grandpa and Grandma. No matter how many times I have come back, I can't help but feel sad that the time will fly too quickly and I will find myself leaving again.
Our arrival was celebrated with Khal-bi ribs (Shawn's favorite) by the pool. Thanks, Dad! Each November we celebrate Birthday Week. Shawn and the girls all have birthdays within a week of eachother and so nothing could be better than blowing out candles on a Chantilly cake. My kids race to put on their kama'aina uniforms (by which I mean swim suits)and don't really take them off until we get back on the plane. Bliss.
There is no point in trying to describe the leaps and cartwheels our hearts did the day Shawn arrived. All of the grand plans and sweet daydreams that have filled our time apart easily pale in comparison to our real moment of reunion. The day was filled with business and many pep talks with myself about not letting out what Oprah calls the "ugly cry". Not that the emotion would be unwarranted, but knowing Shawn had to leave us again, I needed the kids to know that I wasn't crumbling. As I looked at the faces of loved ones who came to greet Shawn, I could feel nothing but gratitude.
Later, as I prepared the house for our departure the next morning, the kids were at my feet as usual. The urgent "Mommy!" this's and that's filled the air around me like any other night. Shawn lovingly walked into the kitchen and gathered the kids to take them away and let me finish my task in peace. He shot me a wink and like any other capable and stable woman, I sobbed. Everyone who faces the duties and trials of daily life knows the importance of setting aside the awareness of its hardship. But once you are reminded of the burden that is lifted by a simple helping hand, that suppressed emotion can quickly slap you in the face. This was a good slap.