My son, who has been living in Michigan for the past 17 years, came home last week for the first time in over five years. I've never been away from Maui for more than a few months at a time, and I'm pretty sure that when Jimmy left to attend college, his plan was to return home after a few years of exploring the Mainland. Of course, life rarely goes according to plan.
Happily, last Saturday did. It was his wedding day, and it went almost exactly the way it had been planned, a small and simple ceremony, just a few miles from where Jimmy grew up. His bride and her parents, as well as the two groomsmen, had never been to Maui, so the outdoor wedding in Waihee, conducted by the wonderful Leiohu Ryder, was an exceptionally memorable experience for them, filled with true aloha.
Jimmy's first wedding was also memorable, in a very different way. It took place in Michigan 12 years ago, in the aftermath of 9/11. My mother and I were the out-of-town guests that time, and you can imagine what an ordeal it was to travel by air in the week following the Sept. 11 attacks.
Fortunately for Jimmy and his in-laws, flying to Maui was not nearly as stressful, even with three young daughters and way too much luggage. Mom and I greeted them at the airport with homemade plumeria lei, and we took the weary travelers to Zippy's for their first local-kine meal.
A couple of days later, Jimmy's groomsmen arrived, one from Michigan, the other from San Diego. Although I wasn't along for the ride, I know he enjoyed showing them his island home, perhaps even more than they enjoyed seeing it. In a few short days, and in between wedding preparations, he managed to take his friends and fiancee on a fairly comprehensive tour of Maui, the kind that only a local boy could give.
Iao Valley was the first stop, followed by a drive through our Waiehu neighborhood and Happy Valley, where they must have stopped for Takamiya Market fried squid or ahi bits. They haven't done the Kahakuloa drive yet, but I'm pretty sure they got as far as Camp Maluhia. They covered the Kahului increments too, so Jimmy could show them his grade school alma mater and his old stomping (or skateboarding) grounds.
Stocked with Spam musubi, they went swimming at Twin Falls, where Jimmy was shocked to see a parking lot and restroom facilities. He took them on a walking tour of Makawao town, including Komoda Bakery and the little boutique called Goodies, which was once the house where his grandmother was born and raised. They explored the back roads of Olinda and the black sands of Waianapanapa, checked out the waves from Hookipa to Kanaha to Big Beach.
Naturally, the tour included culinary highlights like Ululani's Shave Ice, Tasty Crust pancakes, and peanut butter chocolate mochi from Maui Specialty Chocolates. The boys loved Tasaka Guri Guri, even without azuki beans (maybe they had some in their shave ice . . . I know they did have the condensed milk snowcap).
I haven't had nearly as much alone time with Jimmy as I'd like, but we can do that on his next visit home. For the past week, I've had the unexpected pleasure of watching my son from the sidelines as he juggles the roles of host, husband, father and local boy. I can see that he is relishing each moment of this sentimental journey, merging his past with his future.
I don't care what Thomas Wolfe said, you CAN go home again . . . if you're lucky enough to call Maui home.
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.