My house is uncomfortably quiet now that my three granddaughters have returned to Michigan after two weeks on Maui. They stayed with me so their father and his bride could have a decent honeymoon here. While the newlyweds enjoyed their alone time, my mom and I took the girls and my son's new in-laws around for their first look at Maui.
I love showing off our beloved island to visitors, sharing the magic of Maui with spellbound newcomers. The bonus that comes with hosting these tours is that I get to rediscover the natural wonders of our island, as well as the fun stuff that we've created for other people's amusement.
Of course, the Haleakala summit was at the top of our to-do list. Talk about bonuses, the silverswords were in bloom, and we all took pictures next to a 5-foot-tall plant in full glory. The girls were in awe as we drove through and ultimately above the clouds. "I hope we don't bump into any airplanes," one of the grown-ups joked, and my littlest granddaughter's eyes widened.
"I'll watch for planes, Grandma, so you can just watch where you're driving."
They were less excited to see nene geese at the visitor center than they were by the colorful feral chickens at Kepaniwai. The oldest girl, nearly 13, used her smartphone to take pictures of the parking lot poultry as well as every house in the heritage gardens.
We caught tadpoles in the koi pond with our bare hands, since I'd forgotten to bring paper cups. And I had to keep close watch on the middle child, who wanted to leap across the winding canal that leads to the Filipino garden. I didn't mention that I used to love doing that at her age, but I did tell her about the little boy who pushed the rest of us kids aside so he could beat us to the little stone bridges, ran to the first bridge and promptly fell off the side into the murky green water. "If you fall in, you'll scare the fish," I told her, which is what the little boy's parents had told him.
I still think he may have jumped rather than slipped.
We got soaking wet in the bumper boat lagoon at the Maui Golf and Sports Park at Maalaea. The park was hosting a couple of birthday parties that day, and the bumper boat action was fast and furious. Even my 88-year-old mother was fair game for the kids' water cannons. After several rounds of battle, the girls and I dried off on the X-treme trampoline. I'm thinking of having my next birthday party there.
We marveled at the Kupanaha magic show at Ka'anapali Beach Hotel, window shopped at Whaler's Village, rocked with Willie K and his band at Kimo's on Front Street. While the in-laws drove to Hana, I took the girls to ride the tram and feed the ducks at Maui Tropical Plantation.
It was a pleasure revisiting the Plantation and the Maui Ocean Center, two places that we tend to view (mistakenly) as "just for tourists." Both offer kama'aina rates and, even for lifetime locals like me, environmental education. I learned more about things I thought I already knew, and gained an even deeper appreciation for our flora and fauna. And I love the addition of the Kumu Farms market at the Plantation. Now I can go grind Bruddah Willy's Sticky Ribs and mac-and-cheese at the takeout window, then stroll over to the farm market and pick up some fresh, organic veggies and fruits to appease my guilt.
As tour guide and grandma, I became reacquainted with not only the tropical paradise we locals often take for granted, but also the joy of carefree youth. I played air hockey and skee-ball at the Fun Factory and frolicked in the fountain at the Maui Mall, where both my son and my mother scolded me for getting the girls wet after dinner. We went swimming in Iao Stream and sunned on the river rocks, and I taught them how to squirt water at each other by squeezing their cupped palms together just below the water surface. We played silly guessing games, blew giant bubbles, danced barefoot on the grass.
Now that my house is empty and still, I feel an urge to escape the silence. I've promised to treat myself to an afternoon at the beach or in Iao Valley, at least once a week, so I can hear the happy sounds of children's laughter mingled with the natural symphony of pounding waves or flowing water.
Or maybe I'll spend the weekend practicing my bumper boat skills in preparation for my birthday party.
* 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.