My husband and three daughters had just been on our first “real family holiday” to Cairns in Queensland. We rode bikes around the city for a day and drove to Cape Tribulation to see where the rainforest meets the reef. We also went on an hour and a half cable car through the Daintree Rainforest and cuddled real koalas! Another highlight was going on a boat tour where we saw loads of real crocodiles in their natural habitat.
After all these grand adventures my oldest daughter, Eva said her highlight was meeting the grocery store clerk, Anastasia. She loved chatting and sharing in the excitement of Eva’s birthday. We had to go back to the same shop later that day, so the kids could say hi to Anastasia again. Anastasia loved her job and loved people. She was a hard-working mum with children my girls’ ages. As we headed towards the escalator, she called out to the girls in her booming Aussie voice,
“Have an amazing holiday here in Cairns!”
I will never forget her big warm smile and her open arms and palms that stretched out to the heavens as she spoke those words. It set a positive tone for the rest of our holiday.
My youngest daughter, Cleo told me her highlight was making friends with Rose.
On the flight back we were crammed into our cheap seats and I was wondering how I was going to get the girls to kill time. It was a charter flight with no TV or free food. I made do by buying the girls water bottles and some chips and candy, which excited my third girl to no end because she is not usually allowed to eat too much junk food.
After being so used to the friendly connections we made in Cairns it came as a bit of shock when dealing with the staff on the plane who were not overly friendly. However, an elderly woman sitting in the window seat beside Cleo made up for their disconnected behaviour with her big smile as soon as we sat down. It was so genuine and warm that it had an almost child-like innocence to it. They began to chat about horses and kittens and the joy of flying. All the important things in life! Both started giggling, like two little schoolgirls.
I decided not to interrupt and have some ‘me time’ to finally finish my book! However, the story I was reading became less interesting as I started eavesdropping on the conversation between Cleo and Rose.
After my 7-year-old told her 80 year-old friend about our snorkeling trip to the Great Barrier Reef, Rose abruptly said,
“I am scared of water. I actually hate it! You know I have lived in Queensland my whole life and I have never been in the water here.”
Cleo suggested politely,
“Maybe you could start by holding someone’s hand and just put your feet in?”
As I listened, I felt prouder of her at that moment than I did when I saw her jump off the huge dive boat into the choppy, endless ocean of full of unidentifiable sea creatures only a few days prior. That day, she demonstrated bravery and adventure, but today she showed kindness and compassion.
Further into the conversation, Rose told Cleo that she had Autism. Although Cleo wasn’t aware of various special needs, she instinctively knew that her friend needed some extra attention. She offered half of her 53g can of chips and tidied up the lady’s tray for her when the flight attendant came around with the rubbish trolley. She asked her about her life and the two of them spent an hour and a half doing Rose’s “Where’s Wally” book together. Their childlike excitement finding the little character on the busy pages of the book was so sweet to witness.
When I heard Rose tell Cleo that her son also has Autism, she responded with a cheerful,
“Does he like doing “Where’s Wally” books too?”
Rose was pleased as punch with Cleo’s response and they continued to find clues in the book together until Cleo decided to teach her how to play her favourite card game, Old Maid. Rose was laughing so hard playing the game with my daughter that her eyes were filling with tears.
She laughed and said, “I got the old maid and I am old!”
My husband and I had spent so much money on the special days out, dinners in restaurants and sightseeing adventures, but in the end, what we enjoyed the most was connecting as a family and with the people, we met along the way.