I was getting ready to leave when the little guy dropped himself down next to me on the sand. He didn’t say anything or reach for me, he just sat down and started playing with his shovel and messing around with sticks. I couldn’t get up and walk away, he was so companionable and quiet, sitting there right next to me. We hung out for a while and then his dad, upon seeing that I’d gone to wipe the little guy’s hands with my towel, wandered over to make sure everything was cool.
“I saw him sit down with you and I think, oh, he’s okay, he’s over there with auntie. He hanai (adopt) you. Everything all right?” It was. The little guy, 22 months old, I learned, was called JP for short, and he seemed no more or less concerned with his dad now nearby. I asked JPs dad if he was teaching the little guy to swim and he started talking.
“I love standing in the water and thinking what it’s going to feel like when I’m back home. I’ll be in my house later and remember how great it was to be in the ocean today.” I tried to get my brain around this beach philosophy. I guess he was saying that today at the beach was going to be an awesome memory in about six hours.
But JP’s dad seemed supremely content in that very moment, too, squatting next to me on the sand. He looked like a complete badass, big muscled biceps and a camouflage bandanna on his head but his smile was brilliant and his face was open. And his little boy was so mellow, placidly pushing sand around, making almost no noise at all.
“You know,” he said, “I was surprised you stick around. Usually, my buddies, me, we come down to the beach and the tourists just disappear. Makes me feel bad.” I looked at my feet and back at JP’s dad. There was a pink butterfly kite flapping in the wind, caught in the tree branches overhead. JP had wandered down to the edge of the surf and was carrying back handfuls of wet sand. “You think you scare them off?” I asked, trying to believe him. “I don’t know,” he answered, looking serious, “I guess maybe so.” “That’s crazy,” I said.
Then we talked about Waikiki, where he grew up, (“IN Waikiki? Really?” “Yeah, in the city. I was a Waikiki mall rat!”) and about how there are so many Hawaiians in Seattle and about the natural spring that feeds cold fresh water into the bay at Dixie Maru on the west end of the island. We talked about the beaches on Moloka’i and how he had the day off so he was doing a tour of his favorite spots with his buddy (who was just over there, sharing snacks with two other tourists) and his little son.
When I got on the plane this morning, I wondered if Moloka’i could be as great as I remembered it to be. My favorite memory is of going to the west island and hanging out with two local boys who were drinking beer and fishing while everything started to glow from within as the sun went down. And this afternoon, when I was driving back to my hotel with Iz on the radio, I thought, yeah, it’s as great, it’s better because I didn’t imagine it the first time.
And now, here I am thinking about how much I’m going to love remembering today, later, when I’m back in Seattle.
I’m here as a guest of Hawaii Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. All my travels, stays, and transportation are sponsored by the HCVB.