Sunday, March 23, 2014

Moving Again: But Bring the Bikinis!

May, 1990

During three years in Hawaii, my family left the islands once; just two months before moving, we flew all the way to Pennsylvania for my uncle's wedding.  Island fever, where you are just dying to get off the island to see something new and be somewhere different, lived inside each of us.  My sister's first few teenager years created some seriously difficult moments and some incredibly tense relationships, and each of us were looking for a change that would somehow shake things up, somehow reshuffle the deck with which we played, somehow take us to a new place both literally and figuratively.

We moved from Hawaii to Kansas.  Hawaii to Kansas.  From lush, tropical, always breezy, always warm Hawaii to middle-of-the-country, unpredictable weather-filled, nothing-too-special-about-it Kansas.  We just had to laugh as we packed and cried our good-byes.

One of the many things my mom, big sister and I packed in the many boxes that chugged across the Pacific: our bikinis.  When we unpacked them, they seemed out of place.  My parents were both devout Catholics (my mom wanted to be a nun her entire childhood; my dad spent a year in the seminary) and had strict, traditional guidelines for my sister's and my behavior and wardrobe.  But after three years in Hawaii, bathing suits were simply a practical matter: how much sun could you get on your skin?  The smaller the bathing suit, the better the tan.  Even my (cute-figured, bikini-wearing) mom agreed.  When we unpacked in Kansas, we sniffed a few tears at the sight of these still-salty bikinis and shoved them in our dresser drawers.

As Summer cooled off into Fall and Fall chilled into Winter, we learned first-hand about the strange weather of the Mid-West.  The weather went from one extreme to the next, from rainy to sunny, from tornado warnings to peaceful weather, from incredibly cold to nice and warm...  The weather had a sense of humor, and kept us guessing.

Towards the end of our first winter in Leavenworth, a few feet of snow fell down and buried us in.  We got a day or two off from school and we went sledding with our new friends on the hill across the street.  We enjoyed activities in a season we'd not experienced in years.  And then, a day or two after the snowstorm, the temperatures climbed to an unbelievable 60 degrees.  It was sunny. It was warm!  Always the sun goddesses, always looking to improve our tan, my mom and sister and I ran to our rooms, opened our dresser drawers, and pulled on our unused summer bikinis over our wintery skin.  We lived in an apartment, so had no green space to spread out on (though all the green space was still covered in tall, white drifts)--but we did have a small balcony outside of our back door.  The three of us squeezed onto it, sat on towels to protect our way-too-bare butts from freezing on the iron chairs out there.  We closed our eyes, and let the sun warm our faces, our necks, our limbs.  With snow available at our fingertips and bikinis on our chilly bodies, we bathed in that delicious, sunny warmth.

Our neighbors thought we were crazy.  We were!


  1. Once again, lovely. I love the way the title serves as a bit of a teaser. Loved it!

  2. I love how you brought us the whole way from Hawaii to Kansas and even onto the balcony with you. What a fun snippet!

  3. You have woven so much into this post, not only about the event of moving, but also about your family and who you all were as people. I definitely read this developing theories! I can't honestly imagine moving from Hawaii to Kansas!

  4. This is amazing. I was there with you every step! 60 degree weather and bikinis made me smile! Plus you inspired me to write about my move from a city of 5 million two a town of few thousand!

  5. I love how you captured the images of your bikini clad family in this wonderful chapter. I feel like I was there with you!

  6. This is fabulous! It reminds me of my moves between the mid-west and the west. I never wore a coat in Seattle and people thought I was crazy. The weather would hit 60 degrees and people would be in the park in their bikinis and I thought they were crazy! haha... loved this light-hearted, entertaining piece.

  7. The one time I visited Hawaii, I realized I could never live there. You can't go anywhere. On the mainland you can get to beaches, mountains, desert, cities, countrysides easily. None of that was easy there. But what a weather shock it was from Hawaii to Kansas! This was a great memory told so clearly.