It's my mother's fault that I am such a sentimental fool. I learned from the best.
Readers of this column often ask me how I'm able to remember specific dates and details of growing up on Maui so many years ago. After I reply that it wasn't THAT many years ago, I confess that I am a second-generation sentimental pack rat. I have boxes full of memorabilia from as far back as kindergarten. And what I didn't save, my mother did.
When I moved to Honolulu after graduating from high school, Mom spent those first couple of months assembling a scrapbook of my school years, from nursery school through graduation. She also embroidered an elaborate design on a denim work shirt and gave me both scrapbook and shirt on my first visit home. I wore the shirt until it was literally falling off me; the scrapbook, I still have.
Bulging with report cards, newspaper clippings, even the tassel from my commencement mortarboard, this scrapbook has helped me through many difficult times and more than a few columns. Because of my mother's compulsion to keep things, I've shared with you my earliest poetry, memories of the 1967 County Fair, and letters to Santa ("Dear Santa, I don't know what I want this year. Please bring me whatever I deserve. Love with all my might . . ."). But it's not the contents of this collection that comfort me; it's the motive behind it. Knowing that my mom couldn't bear to part with these chunks of my childhood, I get all warm and fuzzy inside.
Hopefully, my son will feel the same when he inherits the assortment I've gathered: his first lock of hair, his baby teeth, his kindergarten journal ("Today I am sad becus my mom wont take me to McDonols"). As my only child, he'll also end up with Mom's scrapbook, as well as my 5th- and 6th-grade autograph books and teenage love letters. I even kept the one that was written, one word at a time, on pieces of mochi crunch. I thought it was so romantic, the way the young man slipped me his invitation to the movies during a card game with friends, I couldn't bring myself to eat the evidence, as he'd intended. Instead, I held on to every piece, even after the ink had faded and the mochi crunch crumbled. I now have a Ziploc baggie full of shoyu-rice dust and sweet memories.
The sweetest anniversary gift I ever received was from my mother. My second husband divorced me right before we were to celebrate three years of marriage. On the anniversary date, Mom sent flowers and a card which read simply, "Thinking of you on this day. We love you." I still have the card, of course.
Although my father passed away 14 years ago, Mom and I still celebrate his birthday with dinner at his favorite restaurant. And, recalling how she eased the pain of my divorce years ago, I always make sure to wish her a happy anniversary on their wedding date.
Mom and Daddy were married on Jan. 8, 1955, Elvis Presley's 20th birthday. When I was a teenager, I thought that, one day, I would send my parents to Las Vegas to see Elvis for their anniversary. Unfortunately for all of us, especially Elvis, he died before I was able to afford the trip.
But finally, this year, I was able to pull it off. Last Thursday I took Mom to see "Burn'n Love" at the Maui Theatre, known to most locals as the home of " 'Ulalena." Darren Lee recreates Elvis in Hawaii so masterfully, the experience is surreal. Mom and I swooned and squealed together like a couple of schoolgirls, and we basked in the glow all the way home over the pali.
Lee's intent is to make the four-night-weekly show a permanent fixture, and I hope he succeeds, because I want to take Mom back next year to celebrate her 60th wedding anniversary - and Elvis' 80th birthday. "Burn'n Love" is a bit pricier than local audiences are accustomed to, but a portion of all ticket sales goes to the Maui Food Bank. For me, it was worth every penny, to see Mom twinkle when the King took her hand in his. And, I must admit, I was swept away myself by the little curl of his lips. OK, it was the swirl of his hips that really did me in.
Wise men say, only fools rush in.
But I can't help falling in love with you . . .
I can't help it, I'm a sentimental fool. It's all Mom's fault.
* 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.