I was nearly born on the 4th of July. My parents, both musicians, were on stage at an Independence Day party when my mother’s water broke; undeterred, they kept playing, and I took my time and didn’t arrive until the 5th. A lifetime of birthdays stand in my memory as beach barbecues with red, white and blue streamers. Growing up, I thought the festivities and fireworks were all for me.
2008 was my first birthday in Hawaii, and as usual, it was spent on the beach, but this was different than the manmade beaches of Ohio, semicircle of sand fringed by grass, still dark water over muddy shallows, packed with Independence Day revelers. This was a Hawaii beach, clear blue waters over sand and stone and we were the only people for miles. It was a pack of us, extended family and friends of the family, people I’d never met before who welcomed me with open arms, like the Hawaii I’d known when I first visited back in 2007. The beach was lined with our tents and tarps, chairs and cots, fishing poles driven into the sand. We stayed out there for the weekend, continuous feasting interspersed with swimming, wading, fishing, snorkeling, and at night I slept out under the sand, stars shining like they never do in the city. And I woke up 23 and covered in sand, sand that stayed with me for days, the way the beach does.
I have a little less than nine hours left of being 23, and again I’m spending my time with my family, this time sprawled in the living room in front of fans, gulping down water and trying to stay cool. My uncle has taken his usual place in the big recliner, remote in one hand, and occasionally he’ll laugh and point and speak to me in his heavily accented pidgin, and I’ll smile and nod and sometimes understand. My Aunt and little cousin M are in the other room napping after a hard day of play and laughter. We may go to a barbecue tonight; we may go see the fireworks; we may go to the beach. The plan is uncertain. Whatever happens, I’m happy, truly happy, to be living in Hawaii.