This post is about a hike on Hawaii’s North Shore, the government shutdown, and why being a military family sucks sometimes (but not usually).
“I wouldn’t do it in the rain,” said Vanessa.
“We’ll be done before it starts raining!” said everyone else. OOPS.
The Ehukai Pillbox Hike, or the Sunset Pillbox Hike near the North Shore’s Sunset Elementary, was wet when we started. The rain began as we neared the top of the half-mile climb, let up briefly, then poured during our entire slip and slide down. The kids cried and got covered in slippery clay mud. Afterwards we watched a six-inch centipede vile its way across the floor and evil up the concrete wall of the shelter where our group collected as we trickled off the trail. I think the kids will remember this day for a long time, which accomplishes the parental goal of making memorable moments together. Well done, us!
They probably won’t remember the glorious rainbows arcing over the Ko’Olaus and Chinaman’s Hat and the sea on our morning drive north, or the surfers out on the waves at the Pipeline right below the pill box, or the fun lunch at Teddy’s Burgers in Haleiwa with the massive kid table. They might remember shave ice from Matsumoto, but probably not since they didn’t each much of it after all that root beer at lunch. Maybe they’ll remember the clouds of bees everywhere in town. They won’t remember the holographic rainbows touching the ocean at the horizon beneath heavy gray clouds, or wispy white clouds swirling across the cliffs on the afternoon drive south. Isaac might remember he had to go to the bathroom the last half of the drive. I hope they remember the feel of this place—the constant amazement at its unreal beauty, how lucky we are to live here, and—most of all—the wonderful friends they’re making, one disastrous memory at a time.
We risked it because we’re all military families, and living with a certain amount of risk seems to come with the territory. So we hike in the rain because we’ve been thrown together here in the middle of the Pacific, even when our country can’t get it together and, you know, pay us (three out of four families represented today had a deployed spouse, and ALL of us will not get paid by the government if nothing changes in 12 days). Hey, D.C.! My husband is deployed AND sick at the moment, but he’s not home this weekend because he thought it would be more fun to be sick on a rocking ship headed toward somewhere dangerous. Oh wait, no, he’s just doing his job, which he will continue to do, even if USAA has to step up and pay us in your stead so we can make the mortgage on our house that we got because base housing said they would not have housing available for us during our 2.5 year orders because the housing allowance is high, but still behind rents here.
Not getting paid is not a huge deal for us personally, because the military is funded through the end of January, and after that USAA and Navy Federal will pay military personnel who bank with them and then get reimbursed when the military gets back pay, so it’s not like we’re going to default on our loan. But a lot of people on this base live paycheck to paycheck. And they are looking at taking out short-term loans to pay for groceries and rent. And the commissary on base is closing this week because it’s “not essential,” and groceries off base are absolutely affordable to someone making junior enlisted pay. Not cool, D.C.—not cool. I am rolling my eyes so hard over here because I’m not even surprised.
I get it; there are politics behind it—I have some strong thoughts on the subject but don’t want to yak about that without being extremely well-researched. But I can speak to our personal experience, and if Chris is expected to show up on time to deploy, get your dang budgets passed on time. Rain or shine, weekend or weekday, we show up. So should you.
Last week at Eloise’s school I had this conversation with another mom:
“Where is your son starting kindergarten next year?” I asked.
“I don’t know, we’re trying to get a waiver for Bountiful Ocean School,” she said, (using the school’s real name of course).
“Oh, yeah! My son started kindergarten there this year and we love it!” I gushed. “We had to get a waiver to go there too.”
“Into…?” she asked, surprised I wanted into the school she wanted out of.
“Out of…..?” I asked, surprised she wanted out of the school we wanted into. In awkward social situations, I like to just keep talking. It’s one of my worst inclinations. “The principal and the kindergarten teachers are so kind. Isaac really enjoys it and he’s learned a lot.”
“Yeah, but aren’t there a lot of military kids at that school?” she scrunched up her face a little.
“That’s what I don’t know about.” Here she seemed to figure out that I, like many of the parents at Eloise’s school, am one contributor of military kids to the school in question. And by the way, military kids get the school a tidy amount of federal funding, not to mention all the smart, under-employed moms who volunteer for stuff all the time. Anyway, she started doing that thing that I do, where you try to cover up what you said by saying more, and saying it faster. “I–uh–you know, you never know…uh…how long they’ll be around and I’d hate for my son to have to say goodbye to friends. He would hate that.”
(here I overcame my natural impulses and just said nothing, and we dropped off our kids, and that was that.)
BECAUSE GOSH, WE JUST LOVE IT. LEAVING FRIENDS BEHIND IS MY FAVORITE PART. NOT THAT I HAVE FRIENDS, BECAUSE I’M ALWAYS ON A COUNTDOWN AND SO, CLEARLY, NOT WORTH BEING FRIENDS WITH.
I know she didn’t mean anything by it, and it’s kind of funny because our kids are the same age and I feel like we have a lot in common, so maybe I’ll try to stealth befriend her anyway. But seriously, I feel like an out-of-touch alien around nonmilitary families sometimes.
Like this week, I felt a vast disconnect from the way many Hawaii residents and locals reacted to last weekend’s ballistic missile mishap. One camp is like, “Everyone’s overreacting, I knew it was fake all along, who cares,” which is an ok personal choice, but doesn’t work for me because the whole reason we we live here is because it’s a strategic military location.
Then another camp is all, “Being a mistake doesn’t take away the 38 minutes of anguish and terror where we truly thought we would die, and now I have PTSD, and nothing will ever be the same, and people should rot in jail forever for what happened Saturday morning.” Really upset people who are still deeply emotionally affected days later. And that is less a personal choice, I think, and more temperament or life experiences, and maybe not something they can choose to feel or not feel.
The second group is what really made me feel like an alien because heck, I was scared too. I physically broke into a sweat the second time I read the text and my legs felt shaky after I ran around closing windows. I had the thought, “I always suspected I would never grow old. The missile is a surprise though.” I completely agree it was surprising and scary.
But, again, maybe through temperament or life experiences, I don’t know, but I always think we’re about to die. I mean, Chris’ driving for one thing (HA HA, JUST KIDDING…kind of…), but seriously, friends or friends-of-friends die on the job constantly; we personally have at least one near-death scare per tour. Usually it’s just Chris, and I have to sit down because my stomach drops out when he tells me about how his ship had a big explosion on the flight deck near a bunch of very large bombs, or the engine cut out during a training flight and only by God’s grace did they land in the exact spot that kept them from rolling the helicopter and dying, or a pilot got vertigo at 4am in the middle of the Pacific and parts of the helicopter touched seawater before Chris took controls and landed the helo and they canceled the rest of the flight, or someone falsified maintenance logs for a helicopter Chris was in and he got an emergency engine light and had to immediately return to base because someone lied about repairs and the squadron shut down for weeks and several people totally lost their jobs. Heck, that’s just off the top of my head and does not include everyday evacuating from hurricanes, typhoons, earthquakes, nuclear meltdowns or tsunamis.
WE ARE ALL JUST MOMENTS AWAY FROM DEATH AT ANY TIME, PEOPLE. Of course it was scary, but that’s life, right? Regular life? No? Then I realize other people don’t think in terms of “Let me make sure I know where the will and passports are before my husband deploys. Hope you don’t crash and die, Honey!” and feel…I don’t know, separated? Disconnected? Alien.
But while the government shuts down, my military spouse friends and I sip margaritas and laugh about how many times we’ve evacuated, and discuss what emergency supplies we keep in the car at all times, and how many bottles of water per kid you need for the first 24 hours of a disaster, and whether or not it’s too terribly crazy to buy iodine tablets when it doesn’t really matter because we already bought them anyway and even bought enough for the neighbors, too, because we’re nice people. Even when people don’t want to go to school with our kids. Or figure out the dumb budget to pay military salaries. We’re still great like that.
So even if no one else thinks we’re worth the effort, I feel really lucky to be living life alongside these strong women who keep their heads up, keep their ship together, and hike in the rain. If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll catch a rainbow. Or at least rainbow shave ice.