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Magic at the Grand Wailea

Jeily’s Dream began on a Saturday morning in September. With two of her friends already in the car, I picked her up at her new home. She had on a sequined unicorn horn headband and a backpack with everything she would need for her adventure. We spent a few minutes saying goodbye to her mom, and then the girls each chose a favorite song to add to the playlist for the drive to the Grand Wailea.  Jeily chose “Lost Boy,” a song about hanging out with Peter Pan in Neverland. Her best friend, Elysia, choose a Kid’s Bop version of “Party in the USA” and my daughter, Owen, chose a lesser known Adele song called “Tired.” I already had a bunch of feel-good girly songs on a playlist for the occasion, so once their additions were made we were on our way.

Upon arrival at the Grand, the girls were thrilled to each receive a lei. We took photos with the mermaid statue in front of the reflecting pool inside of the hotel’s impressive lobby. We walked through the pool area, because our room, which was already decorated and rocking a Kid’s Bop soundtrack, was at ground floor facing the pool. Ashley (co-owner of Maui thing and Imua Board Member) and her good friend Lesley Cummings (Aloha Missions) were waiting for us in the room. They had flowers and pink balloons EVERYWHERE. The girls noticed right away that there were Easter eggs hidden around the room. The eggs were filled with Starburst, Jeily’s favorite candy. And guess what?  The song “Lost Boy” came on while they were hunting for eggs. Jeily shouted “ITS MY SONG!” which just filled Ashley, Lesley and myself with joy!

The girls started eating Starburst candies and jumping on the bed, singing and throwing balloons. Ashley, Lesley and I enjoyed this spectacle very much,  knowing that feeling of letting loose and just experiencing pure joy. When they were exhausted, we moved to the porch where POG and Spam musubi (Jeily’s favorite) were neatly displayed on the little glass table. “Have you made a lei before?” Lesley asked the girls. Both Owen and Elysia have made at least one lei at school every year for their Lei Day performance.

This was, however, Jeily’s first time. This was the beginning of the magic…her first lei.  Jeily has been moved around a lot. She’s gone to three different schools (she’s in the second grade for the second time.) She has two little brothers and she’s a huge help to her mom in entertaining and caring for the boys. Her mom was supposed to chaperone the Dream, but at the last minute, was unable to go, putting me in a tough situation. I could cancel the Dream, or I could step up and chaperone it myself. It would have been a no brainer, except that I had scheduled two dreams for the very same weekend.  I wasn’t sure I could pull off chaperoning a Dream and managing a second one, but I had to try. I gave in to my usual decision making process: place some contingencies and if all the lights are green: GO!

See, Jeily’s family had been living in the ohana of a family I know. Their daughter Elysia is in my daughter’s class at school. Jeily and Elysia are best friends, having just spent the whole summer playing outside together. So I called Elysia’s mom. Contingency 1: Can Elysia have a sleep over with Jeily at the Grand Wailea? Green light. Then I called my co-parent who’s turn it was to have our children for the weekend. Can our daughter, Owen, come to The Grand Wailea with me for a Dream Sleepover?  Green light. Lastly,  I called the Dream Sponsor, Ashley Leahey and asked if her plans could accommodate 3 girls instead of one. GREEN LIGHTS… Ok GO!

Little did I know how amazing my weekend would be. It’s interesting: Dream Imua has this way of constantly restoring my faith, not just in humanity and our Maui community, but also in the way that life moves to support us in ways we can’t conceive of on our own. I like to call that Magic.  Magic like bumping into a man as we exited an elevator and him saying “Oh! These are for you!” and gifting the girls each a floaty, of which he had 3 (perfect!) He was looking to give them away before catching a flight.  Magic like watching Jeily’s mind be blown as I set down bags and my big tray and all the floaties in a well-lit lobby area, and asked her to come away from the stuff with me to find the other girls. She hovered there like ‘how can you leave all of this? How can you trust people not to take our things?’ She stared at the stuff and then at me, until finally I said “It will still be here when we come back for it. No one will take it.” And then she followed me with just the briefest glance back over her shoulder. (Trust is learned.)  Magic like reading a story before bed that has real meaning and real hope, along with poetic justice and gorgeous illustrations to a little girl for whom this experience is rare and precious.

Magic like holding a little girl in my arms while she falls back asleep after waking up from a bad dream.
Magic like pretending the big staircase at the Grand Wailea is enchanted.
Magic like watching friendships developing and little lives dancing around each other, vying for attention at one moment, for liberation the next.  All the while keeping up these constructed personas and making each choice in alignment with a delineated set of preferences as fresh as the grass on the Grand’s lawn.
Magic like giving a child a penny to throw into a fountain, and feeling goosebumps form on my arms as she whispers in my ear “I wished today would never end.”

And yet this Dream was supposed to have Mom chaperoning, Dad watching the two boys, while I was setting up dinner for a family of four alongside Chef Mark at a hotel on the other side of the island!!  What happened with the other Dream, you ask? Well, after a full day of fun at the pool the girls took a bubble bath, got dressed, and we drove to the West Side for dinner at the Westin Villas. The other family had checked in to their room, and were playing in the pool when we arrived. The two dreams seamlessly combined for the evening. The girls played hide-n-seek and had snacks, while I prepped the veggies and sliced the baguettes. Then Chef Mark arrived and completely took over the kitchen while the girls and I went to the pool.

I set the tables, and Mark grilled probably 50 kabobs of steak, chicken and veggies. He made guacamole, we had salsa and hummus, chips and 3 kinds of bread with butter, the hotel supplied dessert. (Enough for everyone and then some).
Poor Owen fell asleep on the way to the Grand. It was comical to the other two: I was too exhausted to carry her, so she had to walk half-asleep through the lobby to the elevator and across the pool lawn to the room. She was completely out of it and kept doing funny things; letting her shorts (which were too big) slide down, leaning against the wall and trying to fall back asleep. She was so happy to curl up in bed once we got to the room. The other two were wide awake and giggling, someone always goes down too quickly at a sleepover!

Jeily was thrilled to find a surprise on the desk when we returned to the room: Yvonne from the Grand had sent sugar cookies in the shape of a turtle, a dolphin, a fish and a palm tree. These were on a wooden surf board shaped tray and accompanied by three tubes of frosting and three cups of sprinkles. Elysia, having the stronger reading skills of the two managed to read Yvonne’s sweet card aloud to her friend.  Jeily and Elysia set aside one cookie for Owen, and got down to business decorating their cookies. I was in the bathroom when tragedy struck. One of the (presumably expensive) sprinkle cups broke.

“Auntie, I had an accident,” I heard Jeily’s voice through the white louvered doors of the bathroom. “I broke a cup.”
I came out to assess the damage and I examined the broken cup, with both girls looking on with furrowed brows, I discovered with glee: the sprinkle cups were eatable!  “Jeily! It’s chocolate!! You can eat it!”
Dreams really can come true…if you believe in magic! I’m so grateful to Asley Leahey for sponsoring Jeily’s Dream. It was a great gift to be a part of her Magical adventure. To read what Ashley says about Dream Imua, click here.