Archive for March, 2013

Conversations from a bed in Charleston

March 15th, 2013

Having a kid spins your sense of time in a totally different way. Time becomes an enemy. I know this because I experienced the first panic attack of time slipping when Olivia was born. It was in South Carolina I was reminded again.

Our room at The Cabell House

Our room at The Cabell House

We were winding down the day and lying in our big, cozy king bed. I don't remember exactly what we were talking about, but I said to her, “I worry about you all the time."

"I worry about you, too," she answered. Wow, really? I wondered what a five year old could possibly worry about.

“You dying. Me being taken from you,” she said.

From the mouth of babes! I felt so guilty because I'm sure I, more than anyone else, has given her those fears. I’ve conveyed it in a thousand warnings not to do this or touch that, and to stay away from strangers. Poor girl! Her biggest worry should really only be what to bring for Show & Tell or how to share toys!

“Oh, Honey. I’m not intending to die any time soon. I want to be around for you, too,” I said.

Olivia looked so relieved and happy and threw her little arms around my neck. She gave me a long, hard hug.

We touch all the time. We hold hands and embrace constantly, but this was a different hug. It was a deep, meaningful, relieved hug, and it melted me. “I love you, Mommy,” she said finally.

Sometimes, I wish she could always be five and I could always be the magical Mommy with all the answers. I hope she doesn't grow up and stop wanting to throw her arms around my neck.

Going South: the vacation's end

March 13th, 2013

(This is part of my vacation blog.)

We arrived back in Atlanta at 8 p.m., to my excitement. The drive from Charleston was straightforward and easy, but still, it was five hours. Did I say thank goodness for portable DVD players?

We have had really nice experiences all throughout our trip, but nine days of sort-of nonstop travel and a lot of driving has made us weary. At this point, Martha and her apartment are the most familiar things to us, and we were happy to see it.

Martha and Diane

Martha and Diane

The following day was our last full day, and I still had a head cold. Claus took Olivia to the Georgia Aquarium, which is the largest in the world. I got to rest at 'home.'

Later, when Martha was available, we went shopping and had girl time. Momma got herself some new pants. I told you I gained weight.

It does feel like it's time to go. We had a nice visit, and we're ready to return home.

I feel like I've learned something about Southern culture, even for this short trip:

-The South is still so close to its Civil War history. There are cannons and cannon balls in many of the public parks. The Civil War is referred to, here, as The War of Northern Aggression. I have never heard the term Northerner used with such frequency. If you come from New York, for instance, you're a Northerner. I guess it makes sense, given the geography. I do call people from Georgia, Southerners. I just would never think of people from New York or Massachusetts, Northerners. I think of them as East Coast.

-Cemeteries are a big deal here. They're even turned into public parks, which is a really foreign concept to me. And I'm saying this as a mortuary wife.

-Interracial marriages are rare. We look like a white man, a Chinese woman, and a Mexican baby.

-Asians are rare. I might have seen a dozen on this whole trip, most of them were either immigrants or tourists from Asia. I'm not actually sure I saw another Asian-American, like me. I figured that, within our traveling party, my Otherness was mitigated by Claus' Nordic representation, and that Olivia can Pass. Nothing racist happened, though. People were really nice.

-The food is largely heavy, and fried. Did I mention I bought new pants?

I feel partly inspired to make trips to visit the 25 states I haven't been to. We live in a big and beautiful country, with so many regional and cultural differences. It's a privilege to be a part of all this great Americannness.

Going South: Epiphany

March 11th, 2013

South Carolina’s greatest gift to me was the reminder of how precious time is, and how I should be savoring it every day with my child.


Our daily bedtime ritual includes summing up our day’s most and least favorite moments. In a cuddly bed in Charleston, she told me her best thing was that I played with her today. Her junkest thing was “No Kira.”

Kira is her best friend, the neighbor for whom she pines away for, the little girl who plays nicely with her for hours and hours on a lazy Saturday or Sunday. She wants every day to be Kira Day.

We got a lot of family time on this trip. Ten days of togetherness, carried into the bedroom. If it’s a queen bed, Olivia sleeps with me, because she won’t sleep alone in new places. If it’s a king bed, we all get to pile in.

I play with her every day. We play word games, chasing games, finding games, and when Mommy is tired, cell phone app games. Her daddy or I hold her hand and point out things to her a lot.

Treasure hunting

Treasure hunting

I love that I’m still everything to her. I love that her daily highlight is my attention. I love that her treasures from this trip are clam shells we collected from a beach at Hilton Head, and a shiny rock from Atlanta. I love that a chocolate milk can make all the difference between a good meal and just a so-so one.

This is such a sweet and precious age. I tend to forget, to get wrapped up in the daily druge of life and the grinding responsibility it brings with it, which for my situation is generally a breathless rotation between domestic chores, parenting obligations, and a full time career.

Here in South Carolina, I remember. I remember in a raw and deep way what I love so much about mommyhood, a truth that arrives at me with such a force I tear up just a little bit and hold my now-sleeping daughter tightly to me. I nuzzle her soft hair with my face and resolve to remember more.

Going South: Charleston

March 8th, 2013

(This is part of my vacation blog.)

Day 1:

Charleston is a very different city than the others. They all have such a different flavor. I see now why Martha recommended these cities. There's definitely more to do in this town than in Savannah, though less than in Atlanta.

Scenes from a Charleston street, historic district

Scenes from a Charleston street, historic district

Staying at a bed and breakfast or an inn is recommended in this city, too, so I booked us at at The Cabell House, a charming four-room B&B near the Battery. That's the southern tip of the peninsula.

Cabell House

Cabell House

Our proprietor, Ms. Randy Cabell, was a lovely, hospitable woman who greeted us warmly and offered us beverages and snacks in a warm, sunny sitting room. We had just driven about four hours total from Savannah, via Hilton Head, so we were weary.

The Battery area

The Battery area

The house is located in the richest part of the city, where homes run in the tens of millions of dollars. As tourist attractions go, there's really not much in this area, but it was fine with us. It was a short, safe, pretty 25 minute stroll north to Broad Street, the demarcation line for all the touristy stuff.

It seems like at least one house on every block has some kind of historical sign posted out front. The homes are beautiful and graceful. Some of the streets are still cobblestone.

Cherry blossoms just starting to bloom!

Cherry blossoms just starting to bloom!

We wandered up north half an hour to find a dinner spot, which ended up being Henry's House Charleston, the oldest restaurant and bar in the state. We were starving so, despite the more adult vibe of the place, we popped in for dinner.

Day 2:

The Cabell House puts out a very nice Southern breakfast of eggs, sausage, grits, toast, yogart, fruits, and cold and hot beverages. We are very sufficiently fed.


Olivia wants to ride one of the horse-drawn carriages we keep seeing around Savannah and Charleston, so we booked a morning tour with one of them. The interesting thing about the tour, to us, is the governmental regulation. Apparently, there are three routes and you won't know which route you get until you're on the buggy. That's because, as the guide explained, the city wants to spread out the traffic evenly.

The one hour tour was pleasant and interesting, with a knowledgeable guide rambling on about the architecture, history, and famous residents. He talked about the city's big fire in 1838 and the reconstruction that followed. We didn't see anything we couldn't have accessed on foot, but it was nice to have a local guide put it all together for us.

A stroll through the City Market followed, which was just okay. We spend the remainder of the afternoon walking up and down the streets, looking in the boutiques, and stopping for a bite. I think if we didn't have a small child, we could have gone into a couple of house museums, but that's just the kiss of death for Olivia.

I've become smart about having her take a couple of toys in her jacket pocket before we leave the room in the morning, which buys us a half hour in a museum tour. Similarly, we were smart about having a fully charged portable DVD player for the long car rides. I also bought a waterproof purse by which, in Pavlovian fashion, she has self-trained to paw at for snacks.

It has been many days without exercise for us and Husband is feeling it more than I am. Southern food is fried. Tasty, but fried. Even the vegetables are fried. We feel like we've gained weight!

A park in the Battery

A park in the Battery

It happens to be sunny and clear, and joyously, in the low 60's. We jog around the Battery along the waterfront for a bit before sourcing dinner and then calling it a day.

Day 3:

It is raining. It is a slow and steady drizzle for hours that, by noon, turns into a heavier downpour. We have rain jackets, and have decided to see a real plantation. We choose Magnolia Plantation because it's the more kid-friendly of the several choices in the tour guide.

This is 20 minutes outside of town. The long driveway is lined with beautiful oak trees. Parts of the property are still swampland. I wonder if there are alligators?


We buy the general admission fee, and with it comes free access to the petting zoo. By now, the ground is all muddy and we are the only fools in the area, but a little rain can't stand between a five year old and pettable animals.

We spend 20 minutes in the zoo, making friends with deer, goats, turkeys, geese, rabbits, chickens; hollering for a pig to come out and play; and looking at a caged albino raccoon, fox, pheasants, and reptiles.




The aforementioned Mommy Purse turned out to be appealing to more than just my child. The deer smell the banana chips inside and come to me like moths to a flame.

The deer and my dear

The deer and my dear

I miss my dog and I vigorously pet a deer like she's Inca, with a nose-nuzzle and a hearty tickle-spot scratch. Deer is confused and starts lowering her butt and looking at me weirdly. Her only sin was to be of a similar shape and size as my Labrador.

We make our way over to the plantation house. Gone With The Wind makes more sense to me now, seeing the wide porch and vast acres of land beautifully arranged around the house. We hear about the history of the house and the family that still owns it.


As with the Mercer-Williams House in Savannah, the owner still spends time in it. That's just not a concept I'm used to from the cities I've lived in or been to before.

When the tour ends - mercifully, for Olivia - we have wet feet and legs, are chilly, and the slight sore throat I developed overnight has bloomed into a head cold. The things to do in Charleston are largely out of doors, so we aren't thrilled about more of the same. As it is, we are missing out on a large portion of the plantation, because we aren't up for walking around in the 50 degree rain.

We decide to head back to Atlanta today instead of tomorrow morning. We like the B&B, and can happily recommend it to others, but under this particular circumstance, it wouldn't be as comfortable to stay in for half a day while one of us nurses a cold. Olivia would be bouncing off the walls.

So, we cash out, say goodbye to Miss Randy, and take the five hour journey back to Atlanta and the comfort of Miss Martha's apartment.

Going South: Hilton Head

March 6th, 2013

(This is part of my vacation blog.)

En route from Savannah to Charleston, we detoured briefly to Hilton Head, South Carolina. The road trip took an extra few hours, but to me, it was worth it.


Now, the Atlanta friends (Martha and the circle she introduced us to) said it's ridiculous to go there when we live in Hawaii. True enough when vetted from that point of view, but honestly, I've heard people talk about Hilton Head for so long, that I was curious.

I found it pretty, in a much different way than a tropical beach. I've been to Daytona Beach in Florida before, and to beaches on the east and west coasts, so I had a slight point of reference for mainland beaches. It was similar - a wide swath of white, fine, hard packed sand chock full of seagulls and shell bits. There were horseshoe crabs shells too! Fun!

Horseshoe crab shell

Horseshoe crab shell

Fiddler crab, alive

Fiddler crab, alive

There was a lot of wispy, tall beach grass, and a ton of pedestrians out for their daily exercise. Hilton Head has 14 miles of beaches, and from our vantage point at Folly Beach, it looks like it was contiguous. This was way more walkers than you'd ever find at Kailua Beach (or any Hawaii beach I've been to) and the weirdest sight for me was that everyone was bundled up in winter jackets.

There wasn't much to do for the very short time allotted, so we strolled the beach for an hour. It ended up being one of my favorite vacation memories, and Olivia had so much fun she didn't want to leave.

We looked for 25 pretty shells (mostly clams) to bring home as a souvenir, and give to her classmates during Sharing Day in class. We found a fiddler crab and chased each other around with it. We had races using odd landmarks like The Speedos Guy In The Chair or The Seagull Standing In The Water. We found some dead horseshoe crabs and something really mushy (jellyfish-like) which became great fun for someone small to squish with her shoe.

I see the appeal of the beach, particularly for those who live in this region. I'm not going to call it my favorite, or something I need to return to with urgency, but it was pleasant, and I'm glad to have this flavor of it.

Next city: Charleston

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