Sunday, June 22, 2014


Until last week I’d never been to Hawaii. Most of our vacations had been to visit grandmas and grandpas, all the Texas relatives and that one time I almost pushed a Huffman teenager into the Grand Canyon.
But thanks to my husband, he and I got invited to this fancy schmancy wine festival at this fancy schmancy resort on Maui. At the Ritz-Carlton.
I’d never actually set foot in a Ritz. The only Ritz I knew was the crackers in my pantry. When we go on vacation we usually end up at a Hampton Inn or an aunt’s spare bedroom. There is no “staying at the Ritz” for the Huffmans.
You know the wine festival is only four days, my husband reminded me. We might have to leave the Ritz and move to a cheaper hotel after that, he said.
I looked at him.
Yes, I’ll leave the Ritz to go stay in a budget hotel, said no woman ever.
Luckily, the Ritz took pity on our formerly Ritz-free lives and gave us a very un-Ritz discount to stay a few extra days. Perhaps they wanted to avoid the ugly scene of me being dragged from their hotel kicking and screaming. Also crying.
Good thinking, Ritz people.
Wine people are usually pretty happy, but take 1,000 wine people, send them to the Ritz on Maui to drink wine, and you get a whole lot of wine people in a really good mood. In fact, everyone on Maui was in a really good mood. It must be the flowered shirts, leis and all that Aloha-ing.
Aloha hello, Aloha goodbye, Aloha peace, Aloha spirit. You can add “Aloha” to almost anything and the more you say it, the better you feel. I can see why people visit Hawaii and never leave. It’s Aloha-gotcha.
Besides someone making the bed every day for me, I liked the Ritz pool the best. They give you not one but two towels, one for covering the lounge chair and one for drying off. The pool guy/gal comes over to take your drink order and then personally delivers your pineapple juice. At one point, a Ritz pool guy carrying a tray of fruit walked to the edge of the pool, put down the tray, dived into the water, uniform and all, and then picked up the tray and carried it around to reach those of us floating in the pool. As if we Ritz guests couldn’t possibly swim five feet to meet him at the edge of the pool. But the best part was when another Ritz pool guy came over with a little cloth and offered to clean my sunglasses for me.
I have arrived, I told the woman sitting next to me. I am never ever ever leaving the Ritz.
Of course, then I had to leave the Ritz. It was time to go home. A home where there is no pool with endless piles of freshly folded towels, I clean my own sunglasses and the pineapple comes in a can.
Aloha Maui. Aloha Ritz. I miss you already.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Grad girl

I’ve spent the past 17 years dropping off and picking up Huffman girls at our same elementary/middle school, but it’s all over.
The youngest Huffman has graduated from eighth grade.
I graduated too — I’m now the parent of only high school students. No more K-8 for me. I’ve mom-triculated.
Over the past school year, I’d been keeping track of each “last.” Last back to school night. Last Halloween carnival. Last Spuds with Buds lunch. Last jogathon. Last science fair.
As the mom of two older girls, I know what happens next. They go on to high school, and mom and dad are definitely not invited. High school doesn’t have room parents, Chinatown trip chaperones and Spaghetti with Your Sweetheart.
I saw it coming. Since the youngest Huffman started eighth grade, she made it clear that mom should not linger on the playground. I should also not: take any photos with my iPhone during morning assembly, talk to any of her friends or ask any questions upon picking her up after school. I should just drive. And immediately change the radio to Hits 1.
All the lasts left me feeling ridiculously nostalgic about anything to do with our school.
The other day, I stayed for one last morning assembly. I got all choked up during the Pledge of Allegiance. I’ll never say the Pledge at our school again!
I looked at the girls wearing their matching red plaid skirts. No Huffman girl will ever wear the plaid again!
I listened to our principal’s daily announcements, all of which seemed especially poignant. I’ll never hear the morning announcements again!
I took one last walk down the main hallway in the school. There were the dozens of graduating class photos lining the walls, the statue of Mary, Jenny, the school secretary and the little first-grader desks. I’ll never see them again!
Of course you will, I said. Snap out of it. The school isn’t going anywhere. But our girl definitely is.
The actual graduation ceremony distracted me from more moping about all the “lasts.” The eighth-graders were all dressed up in their Sunday best and looking very much like the 14- and almost-15-year-olds they are. The girls tottered down the aisle in their heels and new dresses, and the boys wore ties and new dress shirts.
Grandmas and grandpas, sisters and brothers, grads from years past and grads to come filled the church pews, hooting loudly for their favorites. The eighth-graders had prepared a song they’d spent weeks rehearsing. As they began to sing, our school’s music director moved her hands and arms, coaxing harmony from even the most reluctant teen singers.
Later, each grad gave their parents a flower and little note. “Thank you for the gift of love each day,” it read. “I don’t say it enough,” but “I love you.”
Are you crying? asked our middle daughter.
No, I said, as I wiped away my tears.