Glimpses from a vacation.

"Let's trot," my guide says breezily over his shoulder as he takes off down the trail on my private ride through the cattle country of Kauai. Suddenly, my horse jumps into an erratic, loping gait and I grab the saddle horn for dear life. I am trying desperately to remember what it felt like to be a confident 12 year old horsey girl, how to time a post with this trot and what exactly I should do on a western saddle to keep from feeling like someone is pounding my pubic bones with a hammer.

I'm also trying to imagine my HMO covering all the possible fractures that could arise in the next few minutes.

After a life-flashing-before-my-eyes-eternity a few minutes, he pulls his horse to an easy stop and glances back. I'm a few yards behind him bouncing wildly in the saddle, sunglasses sliding down my sweaty nose, hands grasping the reins in entirely the wrong way, lamely yelling "WHOA" as my horse stumbles to a stop, sideways, behind his.

"Hmm. You need to relax a bit, but be clearer with your reins. Hold a little closer to his nape but with less jerking. He knows you were out of control so he took off into a bit of an uneven lope."


As we walk on, I am sweaty from nerves and embarrassment and the humidity and I wonder if the dampness I feel in the saddle is from the terrified clenching of my thighs or a cry for help from my poor pounded bladder. And of course, I think of Zoe and how everything I was doing wrong on the horse I do wrong as a mother. I need to relax. Sometimes I hold the reins too tight and yet without clarity.

She also clearly knows when I'm out of control of the reins and takes off.

Later, when he asks uncertainly if I want to trot again, I nod and this time, I hold the reins just right and find a balance in the saddle. As the horse trots comfortably, instead of blindly grasping for control, I feel the rhythm and look to the horizon.

If only mothering was that easy.


We wake up early one day and whisk Zoe into the rental car when she's still asleep. We drive for an hour and feed ourselves some food, gearing up for the highlight of the trip: a helicopter tour of the island. We check in at the tour company and the other passengers eye us warily as Zoe bounces around the lounge pulling things off shelves and fussing loudly when we ask her to "look with her eyes" and not her hands. We get her into the van for the two minute drive to the helipad and she's thrilled because "NO SEATBELT MOMMY! NO SEATBELT DADDY!". As they load the first helicopter full of passengers, we wrestle her into her special life jacket and try to calm her about the loud and windy contraption we're about to enter.
We're all ready to go when they tell us the AC isn't working on the helicopter so they're very sorry but they'll have to reschedule us. We're stunned. We're PISSED. This is NOT okay.

We drive back in the van and Zoe says sadly "helicopter ride? WANNA helicopter ride!" which only amplifies our self-important misery. We decide to head to a closeby wooden playground that we thought we wouldn't get a chance to try out, all the while CG and I alternate between sulking, stomping our feet and consoling one another. Zoe, on the other hand, got over it pretty quickly and reminded us to be in the moment because the playground? It was pretty cool.

(We did reschedule our flight only to have it cancelled again due to rain. This time we just tried to chill and reminded ourselves that it gives us a reason to come back. Not that we really needed one.)

We came home late Friday to find that our dog has a bladder infection and my computer bit the dust but otherwise, life is just how we left it. Our week on Kauai left us with a few more freckles, some great pictures and the realization that our daughter is a way better traveller than we are.

She became a real water baby, even loving the ocean, as long as there were no waves coming to get her ("Go 'way waves! Leave Zoe 'LONE!"). She was a real trooper on our flights and slept great in the pack n- play in our bathroom (What? It was dark and private and we could still be up and about after she had gone to bed. It's not like we stuck her in a closet.). She adjusted to the time zone better than we did and learned to say "aloha" with the nasally drawl of a slightly stoned rasta surfer. She totally fit in.

We got the best things a vacation can give you: sun and sleep and swimming and reading and time with our little family. The only question is: when's the next one?


grammalouie said...

I love that Zoe is such a good traveler and that you recognize it. You and your brother were also good travelers, much better than Dad and I were, according to Grandma when we traveled up the California coast when you were about six, I think.

I am so happy you had such a good time on Kauai!
Mooocho love, Mom/Grammalouie

Joanna said...

I am a friend of Saskia's (from SF) who has a two, almost three, year old daughter and she told me about your blog about six months ago. I didn't realize how addicted I had become and how much I reflect on your mommy thoughts until you went on vacation. I am glad that you are back and glad that you had a great time. I think that Zoe and my Maggie would be great friends. Thank you for being so open and honest about how hard it all is sometimes. And thank you for sharing the funny, joyful parts too! I think you should write a book.


grammalouie said...

I think she should write a book too, but what do I know -- I am just her mother.

clueless but hopeful mama said...

Thanks to both of you, sort-of stranger and Mom, for the fine compliments that totally made my day.

Also, isn't it sad that the compliments of a sort-of stranger mean way more than the ones from your very own, birthed-you-out-her-ying-yang mom?

Joanna- tell Sas I say HI! and give her a big lick on the cheek from me. Trust me, she'll love it. ;-)

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