Departure: Packing for Paradise

It was a typical cold morning in May for the Northeast. A paper-thin layer of ice covered the bathroom windows defying Spring and nature’s careful balance. It was Saturday the tenth. This meant we were only four days away from our 14th wedding anniversary.

Soft hands gently rocked me out of a deep sleep. My husband has always hated waking me—knowing my affinity for sleeping in—especially on dark frozen mornings.  The red from the digital three and zeros of our alarm clock created a somewhat eerie crimson glow against the darkness of the room. I began a slow motion stretch that ended in an embarrassing shriek I couldn’t control. What is it about certain bodily functions, like sneezing, yawning, shivering, and farting that take over, sneak up on us and render us dysfunctional, not to mention hopelessly uncool?


After I slipped back into unconsciousness following the exhausting yawn, Arthur’s rocking and gentle tapping developed a desperate edge—it’s ironic how the body sends yawning signals when you’re trying to become mobile. Yawns always drain all potential energy; like a double-dare to stay in bed and ignore my duties. This must be a common obstacle for early morning productivity, with the exception of those demented nocturnal creatures intent on beating the sunrise everyday; we lovingly nickname them “morning people.” These strange humans come equipped with what can only be described as an insane, but rather innate desire to be conscious everyday. While the rest of us struggle to pull the covers over our heads to hold the warmth and darkness hostage just a few minutes longer, these curious “morning people”, like my dear hubby are already showered, shaved, and raring to go—naturally vibrating, naturally caffeinated beings that operate on ultra-high speeds without the assistance of any stimulants.

We had packed everything but the toothbrushes the night before, in a grown up effort to be well prepared. Sadly, this left Ready Arthur nothing else to do but wait impatiently at the corner of our bed. I tried to take the fastest shower ever—I didn’t even wait for the warm water to come—the shock of an icy-cold spray would aide in revitalizing and finally waking my ass the hell up.

By the time I was done, I had slipped on the way into the stall and pulled a muscle trying to stay vertical, managed to somehow rub minty toothpaste in my right eye which was blurry for hours, and crunched my little toe against the sink’s cabinet while sliding into wet slippers—I was wide awake now and wondering if “morning people” resort to using paralyzing pain as well.

I popped my head out of the bathroom and squinted across the brightly lit room to find Arthur rearranging the smartly stuffed luggage—no doubt waiting for me to hand him my toothbrush; the last item to officially finalize our packing.

“Can you hurry it up? We had to be on the road at three. We don’t know exactly how long it’s gonna take to find the long-term parking at Newark.”

Who could blame him? After all, he had been waiting a lifetime to visit a Pacific paradise. Tahiti was often the topic of conversation on frigid winter nights as we sipped from our hot coffees and flipped through a stack of travel magazines at the local bookstore—falling in love with the endless cobalts, saphires, emeralds, jades, and deep cerulean blues. The bungalows and small fishing boats that seemed to float in its clear waters off the nearby palm-line beaches perfectly completed the desired paradise effect. But the captions under these Polynesian photographs should be replaced with a Surgeon’s-General-type warning that reads: Warning, this dream vacation could cost you a limb.

When time came to make the Pacific choice, hubby understood the dangers of getting a second mortgage on the house to spend a few days living like the rich and famous on a bottomless bungalow that stretched over a Polynesian sea. The choice for Hawaii was a no brainer. That’s not to say that a Hawaiian paradise was second choice—I just think Tahiti always had a more exotic ring to it. After all, it was not a state so it held a certain mysticism. But the Hawaiian islands also promised a dream-like journey he couldn’t wait to embark on.

As for me, well, I was filled with an overwhelming touristy-infused skepticism. I was born on the island of Cuba, I lived for some time on the island of Puerto Rico, I also visited the U.S. Virgin islands for a few weeks one summer, and after this island-hopping experience I concluded only one thing, an island is just an island. In their simplest form, islands have sandy beaches that cram your privates and undies with its coarse irritating substance, swaying coconut palms that are scarce and rarely give proper shelter from the unforgiving sun, and the cool ocean breezes that make it impossible to stay on the right page of that summer novel you’re forcing yourself to finish. Needless to say, I braced myself for the Don Ho experience, unaware these tropical islands sprinkled smack in the middle of the vast Pacific ocean would change my path forever...

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