Coming back from a long trip away, people always ask for the highlights. My friend Crysty, after a summer in Beijing reporting on the summer Olympics, told me, "I have so many stories, but they'll have to come out naturally. As I remember them, I'll tell you." It's only been two days since Mike and I got back from visiting my sister, brother-in-law, two nieces, and nephew in Hawaii, but I've already relived so many of my favorite moments on the grass in front of the MFA with Jenna and Katharine, or on the phone with Meg and Bea. I've always been a self-proclaimed homebody, so this deep love of going to new places feels like a secret part of me that I've been able to explore in the past few years. I always assumed that student loans and the lower end of the salary spectrum would keep me from seeing as many new places as I'd like, but every year I prove myself wrong.
So much of the trip felt like the highlights, even the next to the last day that we spent almost exclusively inside Nessa's house preparing food and watching a movie and hiding from the sun. I love the version of me that notices the moon; the girl who rolls the windows down as soon as the car has started, wraps her hair around her fingers and turns the music up. I love it when I am dancing in the living room trying to make my niece laugh, when I find myself genuinely impressed by the people my sister's kids have become in the months since I have seen them. I always bring so many books when we go to the beach, forgetting that I will always prefer to be among the waves rather than baking on a towel squinting into a book. I will stand at the top of a 40-foot rock, knees locked, calves weak, breath shallow, and then I will step forward, I will pinch my nose, and I will step off. I will yell, "Shit!" despite the crowds of children. I will apologize to the dad bobbing near me when I surface, pick my tremendous wedgie, and swim to the shore, still shaking.