I had the unbelievable fortune to spend New Year's Eve in Hawaii, with my brother, his girlfriend Shelby, and our two families. Shelby grew up in Honolulu, so we were greeted on the island by her amazing extended family, who felt familiar in the way that love just kind of spilled out the doors of their house. And yet, even a week in seeming paradise must have its moments.
Shortly after I got off the airplane on my first day, my dad, brother and I went bodysurfing at a local's beach. The waves were high, the sky gray, the water unpredictable. The water tugged and pulled at us as if we were the bait, and it was an immense blue fish. We heard the halting shouts of lifeguards, and I saw my mother beckoning us frantically to come in. I swam in just in time to see the expression on my mother's face darken. In the time it took for me to get to the beach, my father had crumpled beneath the power of a large wave, his hands over his head. When he rose out of the water, he was clutching a broken arm.
My mom, brother and I sprang to action. I walked him into shore, Josh got the lifeguard, Mom packed our stuff in the car. Josh and Dad left for the nearest hospital, and Mom and I drove to Shelby's house, where we arrived in wet bathing suits, sand still sticking to our foreheads. And there her family sat waiting, patient, kind, offering a beautiful dinner and reassuring words. Somehow the chaos settled us, as so many contradictions seem to do, and 2009 ended on a happy, if not ironic, note.
Fast-forward to a week after the Haiti earthquake, and the weather's not nearly so catastrophic in California, and yet weird things still happen. Two nights ago, my parents woke to a huge crash at midnight, only to find that their biggest kitchen cabinet, the one filled with all of their plates, bowls, and dining ware, had somehow become unstuck from the wall and crashed to the floor. I woke up early the next morning to the following picture in my email:
There are only three letters for this: W.T.F. And yet, when I spoke with my father, who has since had arm surgery, he said cheerfully: "It was all plates. Bowls. You, know, things. Besides, we've got two left."
There was just enough oil for eight nights of Hannukkah, and there were just enough plates for my parents to eat dinner. Chaos has its way of clarifying what's important.