I think most of us play it too safe. There’s so much fear around standing out, being different or not being cool (gasp!). We live in a world mostly void of color. This is something I’ve been giving more thought to recently as I had been letting my own enthusiasm bubble over. For so long, I’ve been feeling scared, sad, depressed, worried about Lulu and her health. As I prepared for our trip to Hawaii I described it to the Make-a-Wish director as packing madly and anticipating wildly. She responded with a huge grin, writing how much she loved that description and image. – and it was a whirlwind, as packing can be with kids. You have to throw in everything but the kitchen sink while squeezing in as much work as possible before taking off!
As we scuttled through the airport, I noticed people lighting up and grinning at us, some laughing out loud as they passed by. One man even took a picture of us. You see … Lulu isn’t a gray/beige sorta gal. She shows up to the airport with a pink polka-dot suitcase, wearing bedazzled tennis shoes, purple dress and rainbow lei! She rides on the back of her spotted case, while Jimmy pulls her like a caddy with a built-in passenger. She is a stunningly bright contrast to the desaturated surroundings … her energy spilling out in giggled staccato. She is contagious, and can instantly change the disposition of those she encounters.
A limo picked us up at 4 a.m. to begin the long trek (I know, so fancy!). The flight was long, but not as painful as we had anticipated. Two flights, 11 hours in the air, and 14 hours total travel time. But what greeted us at the airport was simply astonishing: There it was … a rainbow ON TOP of the airport! I’ve never seen one so close to the ground before, but there it was for Lulu, to welcome her to Hawaii and fill her spirit. I wish I had videotaped her reaction, but you can imagine the overabundant delight, joy-babble and jumping that took place in seat D14!
We got to our rental car and headed off to the hotel, seeing no less than 7 more rainbows before we arrived!!! It was unbelievable. Her wish had come true already. Jimmy and I have been to Hawaii a few times before, and never seen anything like this. The rainbows were so close to the ground, so close to us, it literally looked like we could reach out the car window and touch them! Lulu was busting at this point, her shrill giggles reaching epic proportions as her bounding grew into full-on bronco bucks.
The hotel was right in the heart of Waikiki, with 4 full-sized beds in one room (yeah, not so sexy). It had a wonderful view of both the ocean and the volcano, much to Max’s delight since he has a ‘thing’ for volcanoes. We crashed pretty hard that night and got up bright and early the next morning to start exploring. There was so much crammed into our stay that I’ll just hit some of the extra-special highlights for you.
Team Make-A-Wish planned 3 excursions for us and the first was a glass-bottom boat tour. It was a great novelty for the kids. But the most special part of it was meeting the other family who was with us. We were sharing some friendly banter when I looked down and saw 3 familiar buttons on their kids’ shirts. I blurted out “Are you on a trip through Make-A-Wish too?” They were, and their 9-year-old boy Hunter had also been diagnosed with a.l.l. What are the chances … seriously?!? They were such a lovely family, and Hunter reminded me so much of Max in the way he spoke and carried himself. I know they would be instant friends. I got a few moments alone with his mom back at the hotel and soon into the conversation, her eyes welled up with tears. I wrapped her up in a warm hug, sharing something only two moms with kids with cancer can know. Those of you who are parents know you enter a sort-of ‘parent club’ after you have children, having an innate knowing about parenting’s trials and tribulations that you share even with strangers. When you are in the ‘cancer club’ (a club you never hope to belong to) that understanding is magnified a thousand fold. To passers-by, we looked like two friends who hadn’t seen each other in a while, but beneath our chic sunglasses we shared pain and sorrow at a deep level. Our paths didn’t cross as much as we would have hoped, but I know we will keep in touch with that special family.
We spent most of our time at beaches outside of the hub-bub, driving up the coast to the North Shore where things were more peaceful. We swam with the dolphins at The Cove, and Lulu had a special job feeding and tickling the massive, slippery-soft and gentle creature. Jimmy and I loved it just as much as the kids did. What a special animal!
The highlight of the whole trip, however, was the Luau. I wouldn’t have expected that, but things just lined up for a special evening. The bus ride out was waylaid by traffic, which ended up being a blessing in disguise since fussy Lulu needed a nap baaaadly. She peacefully slept in my lap the whole way, accompanied by the beautiful sunlight that streamed through the windows of the humming bus.
When we arrived, we were greeted by dancers and given flower leis and tropical punch. The temperature was perfect as we headed over to the flower-making table, where Lulu donned a princess headband filled with yellow flowers, made only for the most special females.
There were art activities and canoe rides and drinks. Although, I almost didn’t get my drink when I arrived without I.D. I guess that tropical air really is magical because I had to do quite a song and dance show to get mine, including showing my 10-year-old son to the bartender to convince her I was legal! That’s a compliment at this point, and it was really nice to feel a lil fresh and pretty again, since I caretaking generally does not include this notion …
There was a loud clanging of a bell, signaling us to gather together to watch some hula dancing and check out the suckling pig, pulled out of the ground (EEEEW!!!) for us to observe and give thanks to before chowing down on it. There was a wonderful show with singing and dancing from talented and scantily clothed beautiful people. Lulu insisted she wanted to go up to learn the hula on stage, so when the time came, she ran up, but dragged me with her after a sudden attack of shyness. She was very serious and focused front and center, the breeze in her whispy blonde hair echoing the swaying of her hips. Max and Jimmy got a huge kick out of seeing their girls up there, shaking what our mama’s gave us!
We left the next day, having seen about 20 rainbows in all! Jimmy, being the great dad that he is, sought out a special prism so that Lulu could actually catch a rainbow to bring back with her! She reached her arms out to the rainbow with open belief as she captured its bright colors. She placed it in a jar, eyes wild with glee.
The trip was really magical for all of us, and more needed than we realized. Jimmy and I have been feeling like we’ve been walking against the wind for a long time, trying to keep focused and determined, forgetting how exhausting this trek has been, and continues to be. Hawaii gave us time to sit in some silence … time to reflect. There were no deadlines, no bills, no housework, and no hospital visits. Our bodies truly let down, probably for the first time since November 7, 2011.
We’re still having a very difficult time transitioning back into reality, craving more sun, more fun, but not able to take it. Needing precious time together as a couple … things that are robbed of the whole family by cancer. But I’m happy to be writing about this trip now, as a wonderful reminder of those feelings. I hope we can all keep adding a little more color to our lives, chasing rainbows with Lulu wherever we may be, and under whatever circumstance.
Thank you Make-A-Wish, for making our special little girl’s dream come true, and giving us a vacation we never would have taken now. You are an amazing organization, and we are very blessed to have experienced your generosity!
a.l.l. of us