" Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans" Allen Saunders
It was February 24, 2004 when my children and I got on an airplane with nothing but our suitcases to start a new life in "Paradise," we were moving to the Sandwich Islands, better known as Hawaii. My husband relocated there four months earlier for a job, when he was offered a permanent position we decided to move.
I had spent the last two months working full time, being a full time mother to four wonderful children, taking care of our 7 month old son who was sick with RSV(a respiratory virus). He was receiving home health and a nebulizer three times a day, my oldest son broke his arm during Football practice and had to have surgery, and in my spare time I was packing, cleaning the home and trying to sell all our belongings. My husband was able to fly over, but was only able to get two weeks off and did as much as he could to help while he was home, even with his help I felt very overwhelmed.
The last two month was so exhausting, and draining, I was running on pure adrenaline in order to keep myself from falling apart. When we got on our red eye flight after a long journey to the airport and saying goodbye to family and friends, I could finally let go. It felt good to be catered to on the airplane with movies and food, I took a deep sigh of relief. There was nothing more for me to do, other than sit back and enjoy the ride.
It was a very peaceful ride, the baby slept, my daughters were watching movies and my teenage son wasn't speaking to me. He had been giving me the silent treatment ever since his surgery. He was still mad at us for moving and ruining his life. Looking across at him on the plane I couldn't help but chuckle. He looked so mean with his Fluorescence Pink Cast. He had two other casts before his surgery and this time decided to be funny and get pink. The closer we got to arriving the more anxious I became. All I could think about was getting off the plane and handing the children over to my husband and starting my vacation, that I definitely earned!
It was morning when we landed on the Big island of Hawaii. The scenery wasn't at all how I pictured Hawaii to look. I imagined plush greenery and palm trees with vibrant tropical flowers all over. The view leaving the airport was nothing but black lava rock and very flat. I could see the look on my children's faces, they were thinking the same thing I was, where did we just move too! As we were driving to the town we saw writings in the rocks done by white coral with peoples names on it. That was fun to read and look at, but very different from what I had imagined an island to look like. I never understood why the airport was built where it was. It gave such a false persona of the Island. It wasn't until the following day when my husband drove us around the island we began to see the island we imagined it to look like. We visited the waterfalls Hawaii is famous for and the very well known Volcanoes that built the islands. The only active one in Hawaii today is on the Big Island of Hawaii. Then we stopped at the beach and let the kids experience the ocean for the first time. It was a dream come true. My poor son couldn't get in the water because of his cast, but enjoyed walking along the rocks in the water. We went home and my husband made us one of his Polynesian BBQ dinners, that we must have had a thousand times but it seemed like we were tasting it for the first time eating it in Hawaii.
After a couple of weeks getting the kids ready for school with all the required immunizations for the State of Hawaii, they finally started their first day. That is when my vacation started! I went to the beach everyday once the kids got off to school. I put the baby in a stroller and we walked the town and went in all the stores. I played a tourist until I ran out of excursions to do and places to go. I found all the "Keiki"( children) ponds and my baby loved it! I soon knew my way around the Island and new all the places to go. My husband was making enough money that I didn't have to find work, I was able to stay home and enjoy being a mother. I was unable to do be a stay-at- home mom with my other children and took full advantage of staying home with my last baby. When my baby started preschool I found a job, by this time I was ready to work again and have some independence again, plus it was a way for me to socialize with adults. Working was my vacation away from home.
My children instantly became part of the "local" scene. Being half polynesian helped. Even though they were not Hawaiian they were learning more about the Polynesian culture then they ever could have learned living on the "mainland", I absolutely was thrilled with everything they were learning and I quickly saw how moving here was the best decision we had made. Everyday waking up to our exquisite ocean view was beyond anything I could ever imagined. My daughters took up "Hula" classes and performed at varies Luau's and Resort on the Island, My eldest son became very involved in High School Sports and we traveled all the islands through his sports. Every time he had to play a High School on another island, we used it as an excuse to tour that island and would stay a few extra days. It was an amazing time in our lives. Every weekend was spent at the beach, BBQing or camping. We loved to entertain friends and new family we were meeting in our home. We were starting our own family traditions. I couldn't dream of having a better life anywhere else. The cultural experience my children were having was remarkable. We had made some life long friends and met relatives we had never seen before. After moving several times in the past we had finally found our home and a place where we wanted to settle and live forever. This was our "Ohana"(home and family). We started to look at homes to buy and make this a permanent move.We couldn't have been more happier; then, overnight the life we had built for ourselves had changed.
The economy crashed in 2008 and we were hit hard. Something we had not planned on. All construction and building came to a stop on the island. My husband struggled to find work and when he did he was having a hard time getting payment for his work. It was impossible to live off of my income alone trying to raise a family of six and we soon were losing everything we had spent the last few years building, within 3 months our oldest son graduated from High School and was leaving for college, we were being evicted from our home due to lack of income, we could no longer pay our bills and were behind on everything. When we realized there was nothing we could do without the income to continue living in Hawaii, regretfully we moved back to the "mainland" believing my husband would be able to find work. We ended up having a garage sale and sold all our belongings in our home and found ourselves once again at an airport with nothing but our suitcases starting over again! I was devastated, angry, hurt and felt like my life was falling apart, I felt like everything was out of my control and I didn't understand how this could have happened to us. I had no idea what the future held for myself or my family.
Within the first month of moving back to the "mainland" we found more devastation when we realized that we were now homeless and neither of us were able to find work. We were living with my mother. No person imagines in their "middle age" years, moving your entire family in with your parents. This should be a time in our lives when we should be buying our first home, happily raising our children and teaching them lessons, putting our children through school and helping them in building their future, dreams, and goals. We never imagined our confidence and security as parents and human beings could all be taken away. I questioned what kind of parent I was to my children when I couldn't even take care of myself. I began to have doubt in myself and felt like such a failure. I started looking back on my life and questioning every choice I ever made, wondering if I had done anything differently would I still be where I am today.
Moving to the "mainland" my children were old enough to recognize that certain people treated them different. For the first time in their lives they were the minority. I felt terrible. I cried every night in the shower when no one could hear me and prayed for people in this world to not be so closed minded. I didn't know how to take the pain away from my children knowing they were learning the realities of how ignorant some people in this world could be. In Hawaii, I experienced prejudices among some people. I was treated differently if I was in town by myself, or if I went with my children or husband. Being the parent it was natural to want to take that burden away from my children and I didn't mind being the minority in Hawaii. I learned it was mostly because they didn't know me. Once I had lived there long enough to get to know people I didn't experience it as much or I just didn't care to notice. I completely forgot moving my children out of their comfort zone they would have a different experience and I was hurt that my children had to go through this experience. They never looked at themselves as different before because, I never taught them to see color only a persons character.
Leave it to children to realize things better than adults! While I was struggling with helping my children go through this lesson in life, my daughter came home one day and ended up becoming my teacher. After school one day she came home smiling from ear to ear and said, "Mom, I figured out what is wrong with people here"? My curiosity was getting the best of me as I tried to imagine what she had discovered, I looked at her and said, "what"? She proudly replied by saying, "no one here has any Aloha"! I was stunned by what she said. Here I was wallowing in my sorrow on how bad our life had become and she saw the positive in it. She was absolutely right!
In Hawaii, the culture is all about "Ohana"(family) and "Aloha"(love). With all the hustle and busy lifestyle of the "mainland," people can get so caught up in their accomplishments and lives, that they live for themselves and forget to live for others. This wasn't how I raised my children. In Hawaii, everyone is more laid back, people are not concerned with "keeping up with the Jones" or the stresses of everyday hustle, no one is worried about the clothes they wear, or their make up being perfect. The kids wear T-Shirt's and board-shorts, natural beach style hair do's and tied back is just fine for these kids and adults. The kids call you "Auntie" and "Uncle" out of respect. The teenage kids would hitch hike from beach to beach calling out your name, if you drove past them without giving them a ride. Everyone watches out for one another. The schools taught my kids about humanitarian work and community involvement in taking care of our environment and love for helping one another. At that very moment, I realized even though it cost more money to live in Hawaii, I felt more poorer financially and emotionally with the pressures that are put upon you living in the mainland. I found myself caring about social status, I was humiliated and ashamed I couldn't provide for my family and here comes my teenage daughter to remind me what I forgot. I was proud of my daughter for realizing that wasn't what mattered in life. What mattered was having "Aloha"!
We have chosen to make "Aloha" our family motto. My children have become active members of the community in volunteering for events, such as the "Ironman triathlon," something they did in Hawaii and we were surprised to find out St. George was one of the qualifying towns that held their own "Ironman Triathlon." My youngest son took it upon himself to educate his class about polynesians so they knew about his culture. My daughter became part of the student council in her school and had a culture week in her school. My husband and I were both amazed and proud at how our children decided to deal with diversity. They taught us better than we could have taught them. Everyday, I wake up in "aw" of my children and their determination to remain positive no matter how bad the outcome may seem. To always find the positive in everything and not think negative. To remember there is a reason and purpose for everything that happens in life. We are never given any trial we are not strong enough to handle and as long as we remember to have "Aloha" we can get through anything as a family and an individual.
Our family was hit hard when the economy changed and we were only one family out of many that ended up having their lives changed by the crash of the economy in the last five years, but I believe we have become stronger as a family through this. We have moved out of my mother's home and into our own. I have gone back to college and my husband is doing construction. This experience has only humbled us and made us realize that no matter how hard you work and plan your life while you are busy living the "American" dream, it can all come crumbling down in a heart beat. When all is said and done all that truly matters is not how much money a person makes or the job they have or what kind of home you live in, the car you drive or your social status in society, the true dream is being together as a Family and being loved, having Aloha and Ohana.! When disaster strikes no one cares about what you are, but who you are, your integrity, your compassion, your character, your love for one another. As long as my children have learned that, then I know I have succeeded as a parent.
Our goal is to return to Hawaii someday, but, until that day happens, we keep Hawaii in our hearts by never forgetting the most important thing we learned living there and that is to spread "Aloha' wherever you are. This keeps Hawaii, close to our hearts. Life may have taken us temporarily away from our home, but it's only made our journey to return more adventurous.