“I like hugging you because your meat is so squishy!” Grant says.
“He has meat too but his is more hard,” he says, jabbing a finger into his father’s ribs.
It’s 4:00am and we’re in the lobby of my hotel in Honolulu. I flew in from San Francisco a few hours before and was sleeping soundly in my room until the phone calls and text messages started coming in. After an eight-hour delay at the Beijing airport and a ten-hour flight across the Pacific, Buddy and the kids had arrived and they were coming to my hotel to say hello.
The kids are spending their summer break with Buddy in Beijing and we are meeting in the middle of time and space for our friend Judy’s destination wedding in Honolulu.
I take stock of this moment. Buddy and I have been divorced for almost three years now. We are all settling into a new normal, and we’re defining what normal is for us. For a lot of divorced couples, that means that the friends you shared as a married couple now have to choose sides, and the kids spend their time with either their mom or their dad but never both together.
For us, normal means the four of us stand in a lobby of a hotel in Honolulu hugging at 4:00 in the morning.
And on Sunday night we will dance together at Judy’s wedding, just as we did at her sister Lisa’s wedding back in 2001. Back when we were married and Audrey was a baby and Grant was merely a dream.
|Judy's wedding, 2015|
I can tell that Grant has been in China for a while because he’s referring to my body mass as “meat”, which is a direct translation from Chinese. I hug him again and am relieved to see that his head still fits under my chin. Of all the milestones my children have gone through - potty training, learning to ride a bike, first day of school - the one where they grow so tall that their head no longer fits under my chin has been the hardest for me. I don’t know why.
Perhaps I worry about the day when they are no longer forced to look up to me. And when they are tall enough to look at me eye-to-eye, I wonder if they will see enough good in me that they will continue to look up to me, even though they don’t have to.
Buddy and Grant have a 6am appointment for a deep sea fishing excursion so they head off into the grey pre-dawn. “Okay, we’re going to hunt down some food!” Buddy shouts as they leave.
I like the idea of being the nurturer who stays back to take care of the homestead (/hotel room) while the boys are out foraging for food, because that means I get to go back to bed.
But Audrey asks if she and I can go to the beach and sit on the sand and talk before all the people come out. I hesitate and she adds, “Come on, you can get a coffee and drink it there.” That's an offer I can't refuse, and so we venture out into the grey pre-dawn and hunt down an open convenience store.
Sometimes the night is long and dark and even scary. But then there is the dawn. And in those pink rays of sunrise light, you find yourself again.
And on this summer morning in Hawaii, this is where we find ourselves.
Grant and Buddy are on a boat with the wind and salt in their hair. And Audrey and I are sitting quietly on a beach, sipping iced Starbucks coffee and watching the sun rise.
Here we are, three years into our new normal, and the sun is coming up.
And I wonder if maybe our new normal will be enough for our kids.
Will my ex-husband and I be able to raise them well, even though we’re in different hemispheres?
Is it possible that family really is forever, if we can allow our definition of family to change?
Do you think maybe, just maybe, I, with my squishy meat, and he with his more firm meat, will be able to give them what they need…?
This morning, as the sun edges over the horizon on Waikiki Beach, all of that feels possible.