Sharing Mana‘o

Monday night is drawing to a close as I write these words, and I’m flying so high I doubt that I’ll be down to earth by the time you read this column Wednesday. No alcohol or illegal substances involved; it’s a natural high, brought on by love, laughter and luck.

It started Saturday afternoon when my mother and I boarded Norwegian Cruise Lines’ Pride of America at Honolulu Harbor. For the past three years, I’ve come aboard this ship every Sunday to host Malu Productions Aloha Polynesia shows as The Lovely Kalena (“The Lovely” is the standard first name for luau emcees, at least for the female ones). But this time, I’m sailing as a passenger on the weeklong interisland cruise. It’s a belated birthday present from Mom. It’s not our first cruise together, but it could be our last, so we’re both as excited as 6-year-olds on Christmas morning.

My Malu cast mates were tickled to greet us and pose for souvenir photos at the cruise ship terminal, and the ship security officer did a double take. “Boarding early, Kalena?” I was having so much fun playing tourist, I forgot to take my phone off airplane mode until we were settled in our cabin.

When I did turn my phone on, a dozen texts and voicemail alerts lit up the screen. Two were from Art Vento at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. “Youz opening for Howie Mandel. Will announce on Monday.” His voicemail went into greater detail, but that text was all it took to send me into euphoria. Castle Theater?! Opening for Howie on Maui? Wowie!!

Art had called me a few days before to inquire whether I’d be interested in the gig. I’d said yes, of course, but didn’t expect it to come through. I guess I shouldn’t have doubted Art’s power of persuasion; after all, he’s the one who arranged for me to open for Rita Rudner — twice.

After replying to his text with profuse mahalo, my head began spinning and my heart started fluttering. But then Mom asked, “Is the ship moving?” and I realized that, yes, it was the motion of the ocean that I was feeling. For the next few hours, I put aside all thoughts of Howie and rejoined my mother on our seagoing adventure. We watched Aloha Tower fade into the distance, snapped selfies on the promenade deck, indulged ourselves at the buffet — twice! — and that was just the first night.

We watched the Sunday sunrise from a slightly different perspective, sailing into Kahului Harbor. At breakfast, our fellow passengers were surprised to learn that even locals like to vacation in Hawaii.

All day and the next, PoA crew members recognized me from my weekly visits, and their reactions ranged from amusement to bewilderment. My favorite moment was when I overheard one crew member say to another, “Dude, that lady looks exactly like the Aloha Polynesia lady! They could be twins!” And after doing my regular Sunday night gig, I haven’t been able to leave our cabin without some passenger or crew member stopping me to comment on the shows.

Yet, even with all that recognition, it’s Mom who attracts the most attention. Jimmy Mac and the Kool Kats dedicated a song to her at the Monday afternoon pool party, and Mom got up and be-bopped, walker and all, with Jimmy Mac. Now people all over the ship are high-fiving her and expressing their admiration. Jimmy posted a photo of their dance on Facebook and, together with the shots I’ve posted, Mom’s generated more likes and shares than the MACC announcement of my guest appearance with Howie.

That show, by the way, is scheduled for Dec. 30. Fortunately, that gives me a week to prepare my set after we disembark. It’s really hard to think about a gig, even one as big as this, when you’re enjoying quality mother-daughter time.

When I opened for Rita, I did some topical humor before turning the show over to my alter ego Tita for a quick pidgin lesson. I had figured on doing something similar on the 30th, but now I’m starting to think I should share my set with the real star of our family — my mom.

* Kathy Collins is a storyteller, actress and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is