87. Friends I made in Tahiti.

I know it sounds a lot like an imaginary friend, but I met a French woman called Francy this week.

I met her at my accidental aerobics class, once I could talk again properly.

She’s an adventurer, a little blond fireball of energy and light, probably 60 I reckon. Lived here for 15 years now, speaks five languages – a skill which has seen her live and teach in a dozen countries all up.  Lots of stories Francy has.

Cody and I bumped into her again at Snack Mahana, one of the only lunch spots anyone seems to recommend on the island. She invited me out – for a walk.

The next day, she collected me in her Citroen (of course) and we drove to the foot of the Magic Mountain. Then we walked up it, through the pulsing Tahitian bush.

We talked a lot as we walked, mostly about love. The loves in our lives, in our pasts, in our presents, hopefully in our futures. It binds us all in some way, the need for love, to be loved.

As we talked, we walked through ancient maraes, stone platforms all that are now left.  Francy said the old Tahitian people make the trip up there to sit with the stones. The stones have good energy and healing properties apparently. I want to believe all this. I want to believe it very much.

When we got to the top of the mountain ninety minutes had passed. We hitch hiked back to the car in ten. It was fun, and I was there, even though I didn’t have a clue where there was.

Just as I was dropped back to the hotel, a golf cart swung up beside me. Hans the handsome Tahitian (“My grandfather was German. He fell in love with a Tahitian woman and stayed here till he died”) says “I give you a lift to your room” (pause) “Where your husband?”

There are many different answers to this question. And in my experience, they can illicit very different actions as a result.

He’s in the room

He’s out kite surfing

He had to work

He died

No husband (smile)

No husband (bereft)

Don’t need a husband

Looking for a new husband

“I saw your boy,” he said.  “He was leaving… with two beautiful young Tahitian girls”

Big smile. A lot of laughter.                                                                       Pause.

“But you…. I think, if you pick right, you only need one Tahitian man”

People are so friendly over here.

86. Losing my Jet Ski virginity.

Jet Skis 5The guide was a loose unit, only vaguely interested in us. You do this before? Four out of six of us said no.

This is the throttle. No brakes.  Okay, follow me!

He took off like there were killer ants threatening to crawl into his jocks. He didn’t look back.

We blasted around the island, warp speed for mamma. We had to go fast to keep up with the Tahitian lunatic.  I squealed a lot, quite a lot.  Cody loved every minute.

It was exceptional fun.

We stopped. We saw a humpback whale. He was close, maybe ten metres tops. He was playing. It was remarkable.

We stopped. Cody leapt off and swam with the stingrays and the reef sharks with the Tahitian lunatic. I didn’t. The stingrays were slippery and slimy, and crazy friendly. If I didn’t know better I would say they were smooching up to my boy.

The Italian man ran his jet ski into the West Coast American woman’s leg. Luckily, not particularly fast. Just to be sure it was a real cock up, he did it once more.  She screamed. Her new husband from Boston screamed too, but in a manly way. He looked like he wanted to strangle the Italian. No one was happy. I think it hurt everyone.

We were out in the big blue for two whole hours. The water that sprayed up onto my face and legs was tepid, a Pacific miracle.

When we got back, nothing was broken but the Italian man still prayed for forgiveness. The Boston Strangler took his details. I didn’t see  the Italian’s prayers answered.

It was quite some adventure.

85. Just the three of us.

It-wasn't-me-100-x-100I took an early morning walk today.

My plan was to stride it out on the beach, get my heart rate up a little, then make a rare appearance at the pool – which would be empty but for me star fishing in the middle of it. This was a good plan.

But I wasn’t alone was I.

No. There were some lovebirds up already. A Spanish pair in their late twenties, not matching. And they were very busy digitally preserving this holiday forever, or at least for today’s Facebook feed. It was a pretty intense scene. They were art directing a full on fashion shoot. But without the fashion. Or the talent.

She has expensive bowling ball boobs and the requisite dyed blond hair. She had a great body, although she was going to have to watch it thickening through the middle at a later date. While it was not quite seven, she was bikinied and oiled like a petit poulet about to be skewered for the rotisserie. He was a nerd who couldn’t believe his luck. His baggy shirt wasn’t voluminous enough to hide the evidence of his love for a good burrito.

Then another couple turned up. Same deal. No swimming, no laughing, no flirting. Just a whole lot of digital self love. Readers Wives. Without the bits.

Bowling ball girl spent a lot of time sitting precariously on the side of the pool, the very thin side of the pool, arching her back and pointing her toes like she’d practiced in front of the mirror at home many many times before.

To be honest, neither of the couples really looked like they were having a great time. There was a lot to be present for, but it seemed to me there was more energy going into ‘I was there’ than in actually being there.

I tried to keep out of their way. Honest, I did. Well I tried a wee bit. But, you know, they were going for a lot of coverage. Like A Lot.

And then I thought it could be quite funny to appear in some of these shots with my crazy red hair (the salt water really does some special things to it, I lose all control) and my impossible curves and my blue and white polka dot bikini, drifting through scene after scene.

So rather than attempt to avoid them, I thought I’d just stay in my own moment, and if my moment was directly behind / to the side / in front of theirs, so be it.

What fun.

83. A glimpse of the beautiful man.

993413_604130646297001_1364375435_nTo better understand the island we are holidaying on, I chose a quad bike adventure for my boy and me today.  People get killed on them I know, but I figured Albert Tours wouldn’t have a business if they sent people home in boxes.

I’d driven one on a Bay of Islands shoot a couple of years ago; Cody had plenty of practice on his uncle’s farm down South. So off we went – two couples (one a creepy old Japanese daddy, young princess combination… the other a generic American pair), a guide (who was also a policeman and a fireman apparently) and Cody and me.

We were sharing a bike and I was driving… all the way till the dirt road starting resembling a Rainbow’s End ride. I stopped to gather my nerve, and slow my heart a little. Without a beat – I’ll drive mum.  So I slid back, and let my boy step up and into a new role with his mamma.

We were overland for three hours. Through a pineapple plantation, through the Opunohu Valley, all the way up to the summit of Mount Tohiea and back down again we tore it up. Correction – he tore it up. I just held on tight and grinned and wooped and exclaimed at the beautiful scenery.

About half way through our adventure we stopped at an Agricultural College where pineapple everything was for sale.  Cody tested his bloods, found he was high and had to say no to the fresh pineapple ice cream and just drink water instead. I could see the man wrestling with the boy. He knew high blood sugars affected his concentration so he had to deny himself. But it made him crazy mad. And it made me crazy sad that this was even his reality.

You think parenting is hard when your kids are little but intellectually it’s kind of easy. Keep them fed, keep them safe, keep them warm and dry. Letting them go is the hardest part of all. Throw in a life threatening condition and the stakes are even higher.

As mothers we are genetically programmed to hold our babies close. Then suddenly they’re fifteen and to do your job well you have to change your game and, finger by finger, release your grip and set them free.

Today I let another finger go and he rose to the occasion, both occasions actually, beautifully. Of course he did.

Of course he did.

82. Accidental aerobics

Another tricky position I found myself in

I’d seen an exercise class at the end of the jetty late yesterday afternoon, and it looked pretty idyllic. There were about ten people and they were on their bums and their arms were stretched to the gods.  That looks like a bit of me I thought.

So I rocked up at 5 today, joining half a dozen alarmingly fit looking French women and one French man, all taut and tanned within an inch of their terrific lives.

We went straight into a warm up stretch. Watch me, I can stretch with the best of them I said to myself, not in French.

Then the instructor put on a different track, a frighteningly upbeat let’s not stretch to the gods let’s give them a brown eye instead kind of track.

She spoke in French and I can confirm ten lessons have not made a linguist out of me. The only words I understood were Left, Right, Repeat and Marche! The only time she shifted into English was to say pointed things like “Get that butt closer to the ground” and “Lower” and “Higher” to the only non-French speaker in the class. That would be me.

I threw myself at it of course. I’ve learned that it’s the only way. I’m too old to be the surly girl in the back of the class now (what with me not being 16) and besides there was nowhere to hide out there on the jetty. Leaving wasn’t an option for me. It’s a long jetty; that would make a lengthy walk of shame.

For most of the class I vacillated between worrying I would pee myself with all the leaping and jumping, and worrying that I would misjudge my steps and throw myself into the sea. You’ll be happy to hear neither of these came to pass. I also giggled a lot. At least I’m top of the class at that.

And then fifty minutes later we were stretching it out, stretching it down. And for three perfect minutes we looked like the scene I had spied the day before.

I am constantly amazed at my ability to stumble into adventure. All kinds of adventure. This was a simple aerobic adventure, but all by itself it served its sweet little purpose.

Stretch it out girlfriend. Stretch that comfort zone out.

81. Being grateful.

I chose Moorea for Cody and I to settle for a while, as I had heard Bora Bora was permanently awash with honeymooners. I thought there’d be more likelihood of Mr Sociability hooking up with other school holidayers his age on the big island.

(Correction: don’t say hooking up Mum, that means, like, get with, not hang out with)

I thought there’d be more likelihood of Mr Sociability meeting other school holidayers his age on the big island.

That’s also why I chose a relatively big resort –  more chance of teenagers. Concurrently, there is also far less chance of kindred spirits for the red head but believe it or not, it’s not all about me.

As it’s turned out, there are very few teenagers making an appearance yet. Maybe they’re still asleep. (Cody would be if I hadn’t woken him at 930 for a swim). A lot of French tourists, sprinklings of little kids, couples, family groups, that’s what I’m seeing so far. And us.

The resort is sprawling. 27 acres of indolent tropical gardens (I read this number, I didn’t walk it with a pedometer) nestled between the mountains and a tropical lagoon, with upwards of one hundred thatched bungalows snuggled in amongst it. There’s the obligatory horizon pool with the swim up bar. There’s plenty of white sand. There are a lot of palm trees. There’s a lot of blue sky.

Our bungalow is one of those over the water cribs that people post on facebook on rainy days wishing they were anywhere but where they are. I can confirm it’s just like the pictures, pretty special all right.

This morning at six there was not a breath of wind. While my boy slept, I was on the balcony doing my yoga stretches like a supermodel on vacation. No, I actually was.

I wonder what I shall wear to the beach today?

These heels should be fine on the sand.

I’ve been to many of these places over the years, but have yet to be accepted by the tribe. (Not that I’ve tried hard, I must admit). I can’t rock a high blond pony and I doubt I’ll ever own white pants. I can’t for the life of me see the connection with animal print and muslin. I don’t travel with a big enough possie. I can’t sunbathe. My skin is impractical.  I like the water but I’m never convinced it likes me.

But I am grateful all the same.

I am grateful to be here with Cody. I am grateful for his health. I am grateful it is warm, so very warm. I am grateful I am present enough in my own life to actively curate these memories for us. I am grateful I look better in a bikini these days (I may not be keeping my mouth shut more often, but I’m a lot better at putting less in it).

I am grateful that I am remembering to be grateful.