By Annamarie Davidson
After my television debut that never was in Part I, I was grateful that my actual Thanksgiving would be spent in literal paradise. The worst was all behind me…
…Or that’s what I thought, anyway, as I sat on an airplane, reading a book about the teenage children of Greek gods, and watching the sunset.
I was finally going to Hawaii. I imagined myself wearing flowery sundresses and walking barefoot on sandy beaches. I imagined waterfalls, and fruit platters, and that everything would smell like coconuts.
But I should have known. I should have known the second we stepped off the plane, and were met by Mitch, this trip was gonna be a disaster.
My mom had met Mitch in an internet chatroom for fans of a book about New Zealand.
Mitch was in love with my mother. That wasn’t the problem, really. It seemed to me that almost every man who met my mother fell in love with her. She was just that type of beauty, just that type of charming, and just that type of “I really don’t think of you like that,” that made men do crazy, stupid, things for her you only saw in literature.
My problem wasn’t that Mitch loved my mom. My problem was that I hated Mitch.
He was an odd, breathy-voiced vagabond who had a shocking resemblance to poet of horrors, Edgar Allen Poe.
I’m not sure what the arrangement was, but Mitch was making some financial contribution to our trip.
It took about twenty minutes into my dream vacation, eating melted carob chips in the back of Mitch’s rental car to realize: Mitch had a detailed plan to sweep my single mother off her feet, and I was a mere obstacle in his plan.
Step One: Pay for and plan the vacation.
Mitch, who had “many friends and contacts” in Hawaii, had planned our whole trip meticulously. There were no beach resorts, because of his anti-capitalist sentiments, or even island huts, because...well, I’m not sure why, maybe his anti-fun sentiments?
We were to drive around the island, staying at Mitch-approved lodgings. We were going to do Mitch approved-activities. All of these were the anti-corporate, anti-tourist, and anti-kid variety, I’d find out.
That first night, we stayed in a cold house infested with Cane spiders, the creepiest, longest-legged, sinister arachnids on earth. (Seriously, Google “cane spider,” and prepare to shudder.)
Every time I tried to talk to my mom, Mitch would interfere. And when I did voice my concerns, in the bathroom, next to one of many Cane spider nests, my mother said I was being rude, that Mitch had helped us get here, and I wouldn’t be in Hawaii at all without his generosity.
I tried to sleep on the couch, spiders skittering across the walls, while Mitch and my mom drank tea and talked about their New Zealand book. I stared up at the ceiling thinking: this has got to be a joke.
It wasn’t a joke.
Step Two: Attempt to bond with the Single Mother’s Eleven Year Old Child.
The next morning Mitch was insistent that I try Muesli for the first time. I did not want to try anything Mitch put in front of me, let alone something that looked like rabbit pellets mixed with rabbit droppings, topped with tepid original flavored soymilk. He pushed the bowl in front of me saying, “Mmmmm…muesli….mmmmm…” in his serial killer cadence. I’d read Poe’s The Raven. And if Mitch was anything like his literary doppelganger, there was a big chance that weird hippie cereal was laced with arsenic. I did not relent. Mitch gave up on Step Two after one breakfast.
The next destination on Mitch’s Tour of Hawaii was, even I had to admit, stunning. White layers of clouds wafted through the brightest green forest I’d ever seen. We drove so high up into the misty jungle my ears popped. We pulled into a beautiful property, shrouded by knotty trees. In the clearing was a large stacked logged building and several small cabins.
It looked pretty, but not in the tropical stereotype I’d envisioned. But pretty, never the less. Maybe Mitch had actually come through? Maybe I could work with this? It was Thanksgiving, after all. Maybe I would start being a bit more grateful.
Or maybe I wouldn’t.
It wasn’t until we entered the building that I realized what Step Three of Mitch’s Plan was.
Step Three: Take Single Mother and her Terrible Child (Me) to a place where Single Mother would be swept away by the romantic spirituality and Child wouldn’t be able to interrupt.
What kind of place would have the above requisites, you might ask?
A SILENT RETREAT CENTER.
What, exactly, is a silent retreat center? It’s a place where people go with the express purpose of not talking. Not one word. No one staying or working there were allowed to talk. It was my dream vacation. It was THANKSGIVING. And I wasn’t allowed to talk.
Have you ever been forced not to talk? It’s like holding your breath. It’s PAINFUL and you feel like you’re going to DIE.
After a few hours, the silence took on a life of it’s own. A backlog of unexpressed thoughts expanded in my head until I was sure they were going to burst out of my ears.
Day One: I finished my book before lunch. Then, I had nothing but silence to consume.
Day Two: I’d reread my book by dinner.
Day Three: Was a cloudy haze where time stopped existing. It lasted just a second. Or it lasted years. Am I still there? Is it still day three of the silent retreat? I started going a bit bonkers. After dinner, I lied down on the top bunk of our communal women’s room, shut my eyes and tried to remember the whole of the movie Clueless, pretending I was watching it.
I hadn’t cried the whole time, but when we got to the cold, non-chain motel, miles from any beach, and I finally was in a non-communal room with my mom, I wept.
“It’s his vacation! It’s not ours! Don’t you get it?!”
My mother told me I was being dramatic.
But I could tell that Mitch’s Plan had begun to falter. The next day, my mom wanted to get a coffee and he refused to stop until he found a place that wasn’t a chain. My mother was a total-hippie, especially when it came to fair trade and big business. So I knew Mitch was starting to bug her when she said, for the first time ever, “Who cares? Let’s just find a Starbucks.”
You have to be really annoying to out-hippie my mom.
Just when I’d given up on my vacation, my mom made an announcement. She and I were going to stay at a fancy Hawaiian resort, and spend our last day together, just the two of us. Mitch started to protest, ranting about resorts ruining the view and culture, and how we were missing an authentic experience, but my mom politely told him her mind was made up.
That night, I got to sleep in a real, silk-sheeted bed with no spiders, and no Mitch, anywhere.
In the morning, we each bought hibiscus flower sundresses at the gift shop and changed into them before going to the breakfast buffet. I ate macadamia nut pancakes and drank orange juice from a hollowed out coconut. I spent an hour swimming in a lagoon with dolphins.
We rented a paddleboat, which is harder to paddle than you’d think. But I didn’t care. I drank a virgin pina colada. I hated it, but I also didn’t care. I took off my shoes and ran on a sparkling black sand beach. I went snorkeling. I saw a giant tortoise as big as a tricycle. I got sunburned. I went down a massive waterslide. Later in the afternoon, it rained a hot, light rain and rainbows formed all around us.
We ate dinner on a boat, while we watched the sunset over the water. Ukulele music played in the distance.
It was one jam-packed day of classic Hawaiian perfection.
So, yeah. I had a one-day Hawaiian dream trip. And even though I had to suffer through Mitch’s Plan to get there, it was still worth it.
I thought for sure that my mom and Mitch were done. But I should have known. Hawaii was just part of Mitch’s Plan.