I like being here with Crystel in her dorm room on Oahu. She lies on the air mattress eyeing her computer. She’s researching how to replace her lost passport. She hasn’t been able to find it since applying for a job near Waikiki Beach. Her plans to travel to Japan and Guatemala are in jeopardy.
I break the companiable silence. “How’s it going with the lost passport?”
“After I’m done eating,” she answers.
I laugh. Of course. Our sense of urgency is not the same. She’ll let me know when she needs help.
Her dorm room is spare. The University of Manoa campus is empty. Jody and I had previously thought that other families would have done the same as we did: vacationed in Hawaii with their national student exchange family member for holiday break. Instead, students had only stayed a semester and had already returned to the mainland. Crystel would be alone for New Year’s and the following week before school started. Her friend, Allie, who had visited from Minnesota had also returned home.
Jody and I had worried about Crystel being on a vacated campus and returning to her empty dorm room in the evening from her new job. We also didn’t want her to be alone on the holiday.
During the Maui part of our vacation when I told her our concern she said, “Why don’t you come stay with me?”
“You should,” Jody agreed.
It didn’t take a moment for me to know that was exactly what I would do.
32 years ago, when I went into the Peace Corps, volunteers received their initial training for the Kingdom of Tonga on Oahu. During the plane ride from Minnesota to Hawaii, tears flowed down my cheeks. In the airplane bathroom I tried to stuff them back in. With each mile I flew – watching the dot on the large airplane screen move closer and closer to Hawaii – I shed layer after layer of my life until I knew this to be true: I had been abandoned. I was that child, that teenager, the one who had been left to fend for herself against the sexual abuse that raged in our home. To protect my three younger sisters, I reported the abuse to the police when I was nineteen years old. My parents disowned me.
I was abandoned.
I didn’t want Crystel to feel abandoned. To be alone. I didn’t want her walking on a deserted campus. Spending a week with her and seeing her life would be a gift. An adventure.
Hiking Lanikai Pillbox Trail with her and Allie, visiting beaches, an arduous 8-mile waterfall hike on Kauai, and kayaking were a few of the things we did.
It was on the Pillbox hike that Crystel asked me what I was thinking. I told her that I had been on this island before. How my past influences my parenting. She pointed a blossom out to Allie and me, “See that flower within a flower?”
My children are a flower within a flower. They have the holding space – love – to be beautiful and a landing spot – their mothers – to feel safe and flourish.