Sunday, August 21, 2011

Recreating the Toad Hunts

About a decade or so, right after I had first moved to Maui, I was working for the Nanny Connection as their token "Manny."  Every so often, someone actually requested a male nanny, and I got this great job at the Four Seasons, babysitting for Niki.  Her mother was a British lady who enjoyed having "male energy" around, and joked that Niki wouldn't listen to most women. We all had fun, and got to pay my rent.

At the time, Niki was a precocious two year-old, who was fascinated by all critters.  We went tide-pooling and she loved playing with the hermit crabs, urchins and brittle stars.  She also loved catching geckos, but she wasn't always as gentle as she tried to be, and more than a few geckos lost their tails during her playtime.  Sometimes, the unlucky lizards even made it into the dollhouse, taking baths in the mini tub and having dinner with Polly Pocket.

We spent most days going down the water slides and playing in the pool, while Daphne (her mom) got to relax on the beach, smoking cigarettes and reading magazines.  The general plan was to keep Niki going and to avoid any potential naps, so that she would go to bed at a normal time and not be up until midnite (which occasionally happened even after going full-speed all day).

As she got a little older (and came back to Maui several more times in the next few years), she became adept at catching, playing with, and releasing a variety of critters.  Her favorite thing to "hunt" was, by far, the not-so-elusive Hawaiian Cane Toad.  Over at the Grand Wailea, around the Chapel pond, plenty of toads come out nightly and armed with a decent flashlight, they are not hard to find.  I instructed her how to pick up the toads from the top so as not to have them pee in your hand, and how to handle them so that they remained calm (for the most part).  
Soon, she was able to catch and hold many toads at once (never really caring if she got peed on).

"Toad-hunting," as it became known, was part of our daily ritual.
Niki looked forward to it most nights and got a kick out of catching toads and showing them to passing tourists.  Since she was so small and ridiculously cute, and the toads were so big and distinctly un-cute, people would often stop and ask if they could take pictures.  Looking back, I am fairly certain that there were more than a few tourists who went home with pictures of Niki and her toads, and a funny story to go along with it.

As the years went by, Niki came to Maui, but less frequently.
As she got older, we found other fun things to do, such as snorkeling and kayaking in the ocean.  Once, I had her out in front of the Grand Wailea in the ocean, and we came upon a huge Manta Ray.  I was thrilled to see it and even more thrilled for her, but she got spooked and for some reason, it really scared her.  To this day, she is a little skittish in the ocean and she brings up the "Manta Ray Incident" often.

Then, like most things... good things came to an end.
Niki, who got into snowboarding and other activities, choose to go elsewhere on vacation, and did not come to Maui for several years.

Last week, she got the opportunity to come with a friend (and his parents) so she jumped on it.  I took them zip-lining the other day, and I was surprised to see how big Niki had become.

Out of tradition, (and because she asked), we went toad-hunting the other night.
I had this idea to try to to "recreate" some of the old pictures so that I could morph them together in photoshop, and create new memories.  We looked through the pictures and found the ones we liked.

Reminder: If you click on a picture... it'll get bigger

I told her to hold one facing me and one facing her... like the old pic.

She tried to recapture that sense of awe, but I'm not sure it came through

Since this time she was concerned about the toad peeing on her,
 JJ (her friend), volunteered to model this pose

Since I never had my own kids, other people's children have become a part of my ever-growing ohana and helped to chronicle my own memories. My interactions with them have become significant in all of our lives (parents included)... and by creating those vacation memories, I know that I've played a part in now being able to look back fondly upon the good times. 

Good times.

Parrot hunting


Cul-de-sac-ed said...

Very sweet story.

Lee said...

Wow... what an un-Julie-like comment. No snide remarks, no calling the toads gross... go figure.
Now I really think it might be sweet, coming from you.
P.S. When are you gonna get your blog going again?