It was taking longer than it should for sister-in-law Maya to get her kids ready for the drive to Hilo airport after a week-long family visit. Lost socks, missing underwear, bathroom emergencies, and a stubbed and bloody toe, the usual things when you travel with kids. Still, it seemed to be taking longer this time: Find one lost sock and a shirt goes missing. Find the shirt and Brother goes missing. Find Brother and get the car loaded, and the battery is dead. Jumper cables to the pickup and, finally, they’re on their way. But still nobody was happy.
“Stop picking on me.”
“I’m not. Don’t touch me.”
“You’re on my side.”
“Brother! Sister! Stop it right now!”
They got to the airport late and jostled their way through boarding and seating. Maya sat between Brother and Sister to keep them separated. But when were they gonna take off? It was a warm day, and the A/C was not on. Who knew why? Wasn’t it time to leave? Wasn’t it past time to leave. Finally, the captain announced that there was a maintenance delay but that they would be going soon. Sorry about the A/C.
Eventually they close the doors and taxi toward the runway behind two other planes waiting for takeoff. Waiting. Still waiting.
“Have they got the A/C on?”
“Sounds like it.”
“Doesn’t feel like it.”
They finally get airborne and enter an especially turbulent sky toward Honolulu. A prolonged holding pattern before landing and a baggage mixup on the carousel slow them down still more. On the drive home a Wilson Tunnel tie-up results in their limping home after dark, dazed and bedraggled.
“Pile your stuff in the living room,” Maya says. “I’ll start a wash after you guys go to bed. Hey, what’s that?” she asks Brother. “Where’d you get that rock?” Dark and roughly polished by time, the lava sphere is about baseball-size.
“Just a rock. I found.”
“Where did you find it? At Uncle’s? In Hilo?”
“Yeah, well I didn’t break it off or dig it up”
“He got it from Uncle’s back yard,” Sister says. “By the fence.”
“Give it here,” Maya says, holding out her hand. “You guys have cereal for dinner, then go straight to bed. School tomorrow.”
“Where are you going?”
“To the airport. This rock is going back to Uncle’s.”
Her mission to return the rock to its Big Island home is unimpeded by weather, traffic, or mechanical breakdown, Uncle meets her at the Hilo airport, and she makes it back home a little past Midnight. The bad luck cycle has been stopped in its tracks, no real harm done. Some locals shiver at the possible consequences of not returning that fragment of Earth’s crust to its rightful location, its home according to Pele. Apparently.
I can see why part-Hawaiian Maya and her children, Island people to the core, might believe such things. Maybe such things can happen to Island people, but would they happen to me, an outsider, a haole? Doesn’t my other-ness immunize me against such superstitious beliefs and from the consequences of such beliefs, real or imagined? I kinda thought so, though I had no intention of putting it to the test. But what if “it”, whatever “it” is, decided to put me to the test? What do I mean, “What if?” Here’s how it happened.
Hawaii has been my home since 1966.