Returning to places of significance in my life turned out to be something of a recurring theme within my travels last year. After two months spent in Thailand, where I’d lived and taught English a few years earlier, I returned to another place I hold very near and dear to my heart: The island of Maui, Hawaii.
Although my family hasn’t historically been made up of travelers, Maui is one destination that became a staple of my childhood. I owe that fact to my grandparents–they’d been traveling there for many years (my mom also has a large vault of childhood memories from Maui) and loved it so much they purchased a vacation home in Wailea on the island’s south end which I visited once every couple of years or so, typically around Christmas along with aunts, uncles, and cousins.
For this reason, my mind has always equated Maui with family.
With my grandmother’s passing, the home was sold and traded for a smaller condo that now houses any and all family members looking for a dose of Maui sunshine. Though my grandfather outlived her for a number of years, he never traveled to the condo himself, as he couldn’t bear the idea of returning to Maui without my grandma Jean.
My most recent visit to the island had been a mother-daughter affair; my mom and I were accompanied by good family friends and the four of us (I was 15 at the time) spent a carefree week browning ourselves on the beaches while sneakily sipping fruity cocktails, dining with flowers in our hair at beachfront restaurants, and taking on new adventures like learning to surf or journeying to the local nudist beach.
With such fond memories attached to this beautiful island, you can imagine my excitement at the prospect of returning for the first time in more than a decade. Even before my plane landed I could smell the frangipani, taste the fresh pineapple, feel the warmth of the ocean and silky softness of the sandy beaches.
Apart from my happy memories, Maui truly is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.
When my plane finally touched down in Kahului my heart swelled like the surf at Makena–I couldn’t wait to feel the humid Hawaiian air on my skin.
My mom and I had planned our visits to line up perfectly; she landed just an hour or so after I did and we had seats on the same plane back to Seattle. My two brothers (one with girlfriend in tow) would be overlapping with us for some of the three weeks. I certainly had a hand in determining the length of this particular trip. My mom has been considering a move to the island for some time now and wanted to look at properties, rental or otherwise, while we were there. But for someone who has never spent more than 10 consecutive nights in a bed that wasn’t her own, I thought a longer trip made sense to start to give her some idea of what it might actually be like to live there.
Needless to say, when the three weeks were over I still had to drag her to the airport kicking and screaming; a sign she’s more ready than she thinks.
Of course, I did worry that so much time in close quarters with people I’m so closely related to might end in bloodshed, but I’m happy to report that no one lost any limbs and feelings were only mildly hurt. I guess we’re slowly turning into the adults our ages tell us we should be.
In any case, the trip really was a great success, overall. I made even more happy memories and laughed at many old ones. My mom told me one evening that my grandpa used to tell my brothers that when the sun hit the horizon it made an audible hissing sound, as if the fire of the sun were being extinguished. And yes, they believed it.
I also had a good laugh when we uncovered an old game of Yahtzee and saw just how terrible both my handwriting and math skills had been around the time I was 11. Some things never change, I tell ya.
If you’re wondering whether my mom has a move to Maui in the pipeline and if I’ll be blogging from an island for half the year from now on, the answer is not yet.
Moves are a huge life change and if and when it happens for her (or just when) I’ll be ecstatic and behind her decision 100%. Until then, I’ll be behind every other decision she makes, 100% (and planning impromptu trips to Maui whenever possible).
Do you have a special place that always makes you think of family or your childhood?