It's really happening! Two nights ago G and I booked our tickets to Hawaii. We'll be there for three weeks, a time frame which I can already tell will be far too short to do and see everything I'd like to there, but at least it is something.
My mother, of course, is ecstatic about us coming. As are Barb and Doug, her best friends who are like my second parents and have seen me through every period and development in my life until this point. I already envision the long and dirty hikes we'll take through the mountains, rivers and forests that I learned to appreciate the beauty of far too late. I know that we will keep to the tradition of having sunset picnics at the beach where I took my first steps, looking out on the rock where we scattered Doug's father's ashes so many years ago. I know that everything and everyone around us will slow down to adjust to Hawaii Time while we are there, that we will stuff ourselves with fresh raw fish and tropical delicacies unheard of anywhere else in the world, that the air will smell like salt and rain and overripe mangoes hanging from the trees. But aside from all that, I wonder if I will be going back to the same little island that I left behind over six years ago, if two years has been long enough to change it as much as the two years therefore.
I've never had a problem with change. If anything, I've embraced it, excited to see where it would take me, how it would shape me as a person. But I think I owe this openness, in part, to the fact that deep down I've known that this little island paradise I called home for the first eighteen years of my life was always there, always ready to welcome me back with open arms, and remaining, for the most part, the same place that it always was. This time around, however, I have no way of knowing what to expect when I arrive. I know, for example, that Barb and Doug have spent the last few years making renovations in the house that I spent a huge part of my childhood in. I know that many of the people I knew there have moved on, like me, leaving that little piece of paradise in the middle of the Pacific behind in search of new adventures. I know that the development of the island has continued, that the secluded and secret little beaches of my youth have long since been raved about in the travel guides and opened to the public by means of paved roads and showering facilities. So the question that keeps nagging at me now, despite my excitement and my longing to be back there, is whether or not I'll be returning to my Hawaii or to a place that bears only a faint resemblance to it.
Either way, I'm so happy that I will be able to introduce G to my mom and allow him to see yet another tiny piece of myself. I'm happy that he will get to see Barb and Doug again and spend time getting to know them better. He is the third person that I have taken home with me to meet my family and see my home since moving away. The first was Q, even before I had decided to pack my bags and hop on a plane to Europe to start a new life here. He stayed for two weeks, charmed the pants off of everyone and everything around him and left a permanent impression that would follow him through his several other visits over the next few years. Then there was a boyfriend in my second year at uni that, despite my better judgement, I took home with me for the summer. This visit, in contrast, turned into a complete disaster which resulted in us breaking up before we even set foot on my island and fighting viciously until he got sent home just a few days after our arrival. My relationship with my mother is still recovering from this nightmarish experience, which is why I completely understand her mix of excitement and apprehension about this visit. Luckily, I was able to introduce G to Barb and Doug a few months ago when they were here on vacation and despite the fact that they only spent a few days with him, they left singing his praises and reassuring my mother with their approval.
It is interesting to me how allowing someone to become a part of your life includes showing them all the things which make you the person you are. Not just the good, the happy, and the beautiful aspects, but also the difficult, complex and harshly real elements as well. I know that G will fall in love with my island, with the traditions, customs, and sheer aesthetic beauty of it all. But I also wonder how he will react to what lies beneath all that. Will he understand my difficult and turbulent relationship with my mother? Will he be able to appreciate that the beauty of everything there is lined with undertones of astonishing poverty? Will he realize how difficult it is for me to accept that tourism is a vital economic element there, yet that I sometimes have to resist the urge to tell the odd tourist how I despise him and his bloated, pale, spoiled children for littering on our beaches, tearing up our protected roads with his rented SUV, for his thinly-veiled pretense of superiority and grating mainland accent that incite pure contempt and hate that I never knew I had inside me? I think he will. Because I will take the time to explain these things to him, to show him how even these things are vital elements which make up my past, my present and, undoubtedly, my future. Because he is open, flexible and understanding, which are some of the things which made me fall in love with him in the first place.
I am going home! And I am taking with me an important piece of my new home, connecting one part of my life and myself to another. I have no way of knowing what exactly lies in store for me when I get there. But I am looking forward to it more than I ever could have imagined. Mahalo E Ke Akua No Keia La!