The Story Behind Tea for Two
We were at Poipu Beach in Kauai near Koloa. Everyone enjoys the beach in Kauai, including picnics and other activities. I was there with my niece and sister-in-law. We had our special teapot and my parents' ashes to spread in the ocean.
Traveling from stateside, we couldn't bring too much in our suitcases. We all love tea, so we planned to toast our ancestors on the beach one evening. We weren't going to bring much, just a towel, the teapot, and three cups. We had a thermos of hot water with the tea already steeped. My mom's and dad's ashes were going to be spread in the ocean before we did our toast. Mom and Dad together in Koloa forever.
The big problem with all of this was setting up the carrying of ashes on the airplane. I got a letter of travel from the Neptune Society. I had the ashes in a container Neptune supplied and knew that the TSA would want to look in the box, so everything was labeled, and the travel letter was in a clear page protector. The other part was discovering the rules for spreading cremains in the ocean. I called a mortuary in Kauai and asked. It was simple, I found out, but figuring out who had or knew of the regulations was not easy. So many calls were made, and worrying that some simple part along the way would stop us. All we had to do was walk out to about knee-deep water where no one else was around. We figured dinner time would be perfect as everyone would eat at restaurants.
This was so important for me, honoring the Puerto Rican side of our family who came at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century. My grandparents struggled, working the sugar cane plantations, and even lost a child en route to Hawaii. We must spread the ashes and make a toast, honoring them and those who came before us. This was such an important connection for us.
It sounds simple but the calls I made with no one knowing the answer and finding out that you can't spread ashes on private property without permission. Ok, so who owns the ocean off of the coast? The US, I assumed. Whom do you call!? I finally thought of calling a mortuary. Kauai is a small island and I was hoping that there was someone.
I finally got it all together, or so I thought. I didn't know about protected monk seals. They are one of the most endangered seal species in the world. From the moment they come to the beach, a "Do not cross." tape is put up, and someone is there to watch until the seal decides to go back into the ocean, however long that may take. Well, we got the ashes blessed by the local priest in the church where my dad was baptized in 1912. We spread the ashes first. Good thing as soon thereafter, a monk seal arrived. Our great idea of waiting till everyone was at dinner didn't get cleared with the seal. Our blanket was saved, but the precious teapot didn't make it in time and got in the quarantine zone for the seal.
That beautiful pot designed from clay to honor a Crowned Bailer Melon shell, which cost a tidy sum, was headed for an unknown fate.
The seal didn't know it was precious, and the "warden" warned us about crossing the line. All I could see was the seal rolling over and smashing the teapot or bounding back into the ocean, dragging the pot along with some seaweed. All of a sudden, the seal moved over to a different spot, and the "Do not cross." sign had to move with him. Saved in the nick of time. We were lucky that it didn't get taken into the ocean, but two friendly crabs were fascinated by our treasure. A memory indeed.
We finally made our toast, honoring parents, grandparents, and many other Rodriguez/Ruiz clan relatives. Our tea was a tropical treat, too, to remind us of our roots. Our precious pot was saved, and this artistic memory captured the moment. We made that familial connection to the Islands. Next time we honor family, I think we may do it indoors. (Most of this story is true, including encountering the protected seal. The sequence has been changed for clarity.)