By Michelle Railey
As everyone who is interested knows, I was just in Hawaii (Aloha! Mahalo!). There are pictures I took. There are two I didn’t. The two I didn’t get are probably more interesting.
The first: there were two babies sitting under an umbrella on the beach. What’s old enough to sit? They must have been one-ish. One was in mint. One was in pink. Both had little hats. Their little backs were facing me; their little baby-faces were facing the water. I will never (never) be able to describe their perfect little bodies on the sand in their pastel casings facing the water. I tried to get a picture. I really did. But it’s weird trying to get a picture of other people’s children, y’know? But they were perfect. Their dad got a picture. And after that, the little mint-colored one began to try to finagle sand from the beach into his bucket using a tiny little shovel. He missed. Every time. But the attempt seemed very important. And I have no doubt that someday he’ll make the bucket. He really will.
The second: Red and I had just been swimming in the waves of the Pacific. Well, not having a surplus of towels or anything, we walked along the beach to air-dry. We hit a point where a 4-year-old (I’m guessing here) was standing, in the surf, facing the beach, surrounded by a 5-foot diameter ring of pale white translucent fish. Like magic. It was amazing. I originally wanted to get a picture of the fish (stunning) in the clear waters, hundreds of them. But then I wanted a picture of that skinny-legged big-eyed little moppet of a girl, holding her bag of peanuts and staring down at the fish. She’d been feeding them for awhile. Red and I goggled the fish for several minutes until we were afraid it would be weird standing that long next to someone else’s kid (almost as weird as taking her tanned perfect, peanut-holding, fish-surrounded, long-haired photo). So we moved on a couple paces. The lanky-limbed, bag-holding child then turned around and shouted to her mother (presumably), “Mom, will the fish get sick if I feed them peanuts?” See, you just can’t get a picture of that. The best part— still— is that she had been feeding fish peanuts for a very long while before she got to that question. I love that child.
People-watching on the beach in Hawaii is the best. Better than malls or airports, by far. (Speedos! Nice, smiling, friendly sorts of men with expensive, closed-off brittle sorts of wives with towels on their heads, uninterested in smiling men-folk, or the beach; young girls taking pictures of one another in the waves, while jumping, trying to get the perfect, joyous shot). But kids. Babes on the beach. They win. Every time. They smile, they giggle, they stand, they sit, they wobble, they ride on little plastic rafts and they are perfect and joyous and little miracles. And when they have little hats, god help you if you can put your phone away before you become that creep on the beach taking pictures of Other People’s Kids.
So those were the photos I wish I had gotten. The translucent fish. The two perfect buttermint babies, under umbrella, in hats, facing the ocean.
And so, these are the best of the last of the photos I got. No long-limbed or otherwise elfin beach children belonging to others. Just the International Market (which will soon, tragically, be replaced by a Neiman Marcus) and my penchant for, well, flowers, warped wood, water, and an interesting face carved in wood or stone.
It’s a trip worth taking. And I’m inordinately glad Hawaii is our 50th state. Aloha.