by A.K. Cotham
It started with a blob of grease that the trunk of the rental car put onto Mom’s clean white T-shirt, the one she’d just changed into. But we were in a hurry—I had a business meeting to get to—so we got inside. She fiddled under her seat. “There’s no way to adjust this?” she said in disbelief.
“Do you need a booster seat?” I asked.
It was noon; we’d just landed in Honolulu. We were in Oahu for five days to visit Mom’s parents. Grandma and Grandpa were flying in at 7 p.m., having been on a cruise down the Danube. So my meeting, to be followed by spa treatments for both Mom and me, came in as a handy way to kill time before returning to the airport.
Her appointment was later than mine, so she dropped me off and drove off in search of lunch. After my meeting, I happily flounced off to the spa. The first indulgence, a water therapy treatment, soothed me with pretty lights and fragrances until they turned on the cold water— ostensibly to jazz up my circulation but really turning me into a human icicle. The second treatment, a coconut-lime body scrub, left a half-pound of epidermis on the treatment room floor and my body smelling like a tropical pastry.
In the dressing area, I asked two nearby attendants if Mom was done with her treatment. They looked warily at each other. “She didn’t have it,” one woman finally said. “She’s waiting for you in the hotel lobby. Your luggage got stolen.”
Every rental car comes with a sticker: DO NOT LEAVE VALUABLES IN TRUNK. It’s been a longstanding joke between us (the phrase, not the concept). In the hotel garage, we’d wavered between hauling our luggage with us and leaving it behind. “Do not leave valuables in trunk,” I’d said.
“It’s not that valuable,” Mom said after a moment. “What’s the worst that can happen?”
In all the years we’ve left “valuables in trunk”, we’ve never been ripped off. Our time was due. These jackasses were smooth; Mom didn’t even know there’d been a break-in until she opened the trunk. Fortunately we’d kept what was important—identity, cameras, cash, my laptop—on our persons. We were dumb haoles, but we weren’t that
dumb. “I hope they enjoy my old lady underwear,” Mom grumbled as we headed back to Honolulu.
Before landing, we’d been told Hawaii hadn’t seen rain for about three weeks. The tropics being what they are, that ended with our arrival. It was Wednesday at rush hour, twilight now. Miles from the mall, we inched along through the dark and the rain, bumper to bumper, two miles an hour through swollen intersections. “It can’t be the rain that’s making traffic so bad,” Mom fumed.
“It’s probably not,” I realized. “Today is Halloween!”
“Expletive deleted!” Mom said.
At this rate, we wouldn’t get to the mall and back to the airport in time. “Maybe the flight is late?” she said.
I called the airline. “Um. It’s landing thirty minutes early.”
We reached the mall. Mom was on an underwear mission; I was getting toothbrushes at the drugstore. I waded through thigh-high masses of pirates, bumblebees, tigers, ghosts, ghouls, Shreks and Disney princesses, stepping on superhero capes, hungry and trying to not steal some kid’s candy.
I beat Mom back to our meeting place. When she finally appeared, I grumpily asked what took her so long. She showed me her Clinique purchases. Ah, priorities.
We hit the streets. Traffic, if not the rain, had lightened up. At the airport, Mom pulled over and I raced inside to find my grandparents at the baggage claim, exhausted, sick and looking beaten up—a lot like the luggage that Mom and I then started to manipulate into compact car. We paused. “If our bags hadn’t been stolen,” she said, “we wouldn’t have room for their stuff and them.”
So, that was the first day. Day two saw Grandma bedridden until she could see a specialist for her new ailments. Day three, Grandpa lost his voice to the violent, lung-deep hacking he’d brought back from Europe. Day four hosted the fiercest thunderstorm I’ve ever experienced—10 hours of aural reverberation that drowned out sleep as well as much of the street. (Mom and I had underwear, so it’s not like we needed to go anywhere.)
Day five ... mmm, real, gorgeous Hawaiian sunshine. That was the day we left.