- Posted February 25, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Your child's travel firsts
Grayson's first trip to Maui
To be fair, this wasn’t Grayson’s first trip on an airplane. Grayson was born with metopic craniosynostosis, which is a relatively rare condition where the front of his skull was fused at birth, and could not grow any wider as it normally should. Grayson’s condition required a craniofacial (plastic) surgeon and a neurosurgeon to remove the front of his skull, reshape it with screws and plates, and widen the orbital bones. We’re so fortunate to live just a short flight away from Seattle Children’s Hospital where Grayson has traveled since he was four months old to receive top notch care at their amazing craniofacial clinic. I cannot say enough wonderful things about Seattle Children’s, and Grayson’s surgery team, and Grayson became quite the frequent flier by the time he was a year old. There were times I took him on the plane while he was recovering from surgery and he screamed the whole way there. Perhaps because of his ear-to-ear scar, or his bruised eyes, or maybe even my weary “I’m sorry, I’m trying and this is so hard” expression, people were kind - unusually kind for the situation. Once, a lady even offered to help me repack my diaper bag when we landed. Another tried making silly faces at Grayson to help him smile. These are good memories… but in the end it was clearly not a vacation, not the way I would have chosen our first memories of traveling together to be like. This trip – this one was different.
Grayson was nine months post-op and had made it through two hospitalizations when we decided we needed a break. We needed to step off a plane and be confronted by a warm breeze and the smell of flowers, not by CT scans, paperwork, and labs. We needed to have nothing more on our agenda than taking walks together, sharing laughter, and letting Grayson get to know his grandparents. Last year, we enjoyed our summer at home with baseball games and hiking, but I also knew we were looking ahead to a surgery date, and in quiet times - those moments of stillness where you look out the car window, or down at your dinner plate and find yourself in a momentary abyss of emotion and confusion - I worried. We were facing so much uncertainty. Was Grayson in pain? Would he look different after surgery? What if he reacted to the anesthesia and something terrible happened? Would we all come out of this unscathed in the end? At times, I almost treated it as our last summer - trying to soak up all the happy times before the clouds rolled in. In hindsight, I didn't need to worry so much. But I suppose that's the way we prepare to be strong for what's to come, when you don't know quite what you're facing. It was my mind's way of battening down the hatches, the way you wrap the end of your dog leash around your wrist just in case your hand gives way. And so, this past May, we went to Maui.
Grayson was eighteen months old when we took our big trip across the ocean. My parents greeted us at the airport, and we all stretched our legs before climbing into the car to Kaanapali Beach. As soon as we got to the condo, we opened the balcony door and led Grayson out by his little hand. He wasn’t much of a talker yet, but he used one of his only words to tell us what he saw – he took in the endless blue water, the sound of the waves, and whispered “Wow.” My dad says he will never forget that moment. There’s something special about having kids that allows you to see the world for the very first time through their eyes, and it causes you to take less for granted.
It turned out we had a little fish on our hands. Grayson loved to get up early and walk on the beach with us. He usually got tuckered out mid-morning and would snooze in the hiking carrier on our way back up the beach. I was nervous that he would be afraid of the water and the waves, since we hadn’t ever encountered more than a small swimming pool back home. Our little cranio warrior had no fear. He would run right to the water, and giggle when we swept him back up the beach in our arms. His dad took him boogie boarding in the gentle waves by Black Rock, and he made endless sand castles in the shade with Grandma with his little plastic shovel. At times, he just sat there in the sand facing the ocean, and watched the waves come up to his toes. We once made him a little tide pool on the beach to sit in, and he continuously handed us his big blue bucket to keep it filled up with seawater, urgently saying, “More? More?” as he handed it over with a wide grin on his face.
We drove into Lahaina where Grayson ran under the huge winding arms of the old banyan tree, and we all watched the sunset that night from our table at Bubba Gump. We also took the long and stunning drive to Hana where Grayson met his Hawaiian family. They took us to Hamoa beach where we all held hands to dip our toes into the surf, and Grayson built more castles with Grandma while my husband tried his hand at stand-up paddle boarding. After a stop at Hasegawa General Store for supplies (and cookies of course), we ate pizza by torchlight and fell asleep to the sound of the rain on our cabin roof. The next day, we hiked through a dark bamboo forest leading to Waimoku Falls, where a quick rain shower gave way to a warm sunny day. On our last day in Hana, we took a brief hike through Wai‘anapanapa State Park, and learned about the legend of Princess Popoalaea.
I can’t tell you everything we did that week – I don’t remember it all. I only remember how it felt. It was like exhaling after you’ve been underwater for a long time. We were happy, we were together, and we weren’t thinking about anything except what new adventure we’d have tomorrow. Looking back, I have a feeling it might be my favorite summer. And I hope, even if baby amnesia sets in and Grayson doesn’t remember it all, that somehow he’ll remember the way it felt as well. Someday, maybe when he’s older, he’ll sink his toes into the warm sand on a beach nowhere in particular, and whisper, “Wow” the way he did back then.