I hope your Thanksgiving weekend was as blessed as mine was. Maybe it's just part of aging, but each year I have more to be thankful for. Wait, that's not true. It's not that I have more to be thankful for; I'm just more thankful for the same stuff I've always had. Like family and friends, idyllic childhood memories, a community filled with aloha. And, of course, living on Maui.
My Thanksgiving Day started at 6 a.m. with my 86-year-old mother picking me up to go paddling. No, it's not a family tradition. You see, Mom started a bucket list right before her 83rd birthday. That was the year we got matching tattoos and went parasailing. I talked her out of skydiving a few years ago because I was concerned about the impact of the landing. Besides, she'd already done indoor skydiving inside a giant vertical wind tunnel. She's also done the Haleakala ziplines (twice!), gone white water rafting on the Colorado River, ridden a camel in Turkey, and conquered some of the biggest roller coasters and thrill rides in the country. After Mom completed her list with her first motorcycle ride on her 85th birthday, her friend Kelly, a member of Lae'ula O Kai canoe club, suggested paddling.
And that's how I ended up in the fourth seat of a sleek green-and-yellow canoe, enjoying a glorious glide on the water. The early-morning serenity extended from the beach at Kanaha Park into the ocean, and we were greeted by a couple of honu (turtles) as we approached Spreckelsville. Sitting behind Mom, I watched her keep pace with each stroke and heard her joyful laughter every time we surfed a wave. It's a sound I will never forget, like a favorite song, and I am grateful to Kelly, Momi, Kamalani, and especially Coach Sharon for bringing it forth.
Saturday, I had the privilege of emceeing the Maui Historical Society's "A Bailey House Christmas" fundraiser. Scaled down from previous years, the entire event was confined to the modest grounds of the museum, but there was no lack of holiday spirit or aloha. Or things to do, see, eat, purchase and enjoy. Starting with Mele Fong's Maui Ukulele Pops Band and ending with Roger "The Mad Bagpiper" McKinley, with George Kahumoku Jr., Richard Ho'opi'i, Iola Balubar and Halau Hula O Keola-Ali'iokekai, and carolers from Maui Onstage's "A Christmas Carol" and Maui Madrigal in between, the entertainment was superb. I did much of my Christmas shopping at the museum gift shop and various vendor tables, had a Hawaiian plate lunch AND hamburger steak (hey, I was there all day, OK?) and talked story with many friends, old and new.
But the best part, for me, was revisiting the Bailey House itself. As young children, my cousin Mark and I discovered the museum while exploring our Wailuku neighborhood. A warm and wonderful Hawaiian woman - I think it was Auntie Hannah Lai - welcomed us on our visits as if we were family, coming to spend the day at Grandma's. That's how it felt, too. Even though I couldn't sit on the magnificent peacock chair, or nap on the hand-stitched Hawaiian quilt covering the four-poster bed, or hold the porcelain doll with the spooky glass eyes, I still felt very much at home there. It was my personal playhouse, where I could live my little girl time-warp fantasies.
Downstairs, Auntie patiently answered my questions about the tools and weapons displayed alongside drawings and artifacts. She nurtured my imagination and fed my fascination with Hawaiian history and culture. Sometimes she let Mark and me act as guides for amused tourists who bought our plumeria lei for 50 cents and tipped us a dollar.
Last Saturday, as I stepped into the Bailey House for the first time in more than a decade, I had a Dickens moment. Like Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Past, I saw my 7-year-old self, peering into a glass case, trying to count the strands of hair in the lei niho palaoa. Other visitors probably thought I was having an asthma attack, the way I gasped and squealed at every turn. It was all there: the dog tooth necklaces, the faded pink square of kapa, the parlor spinning wheel, the ornate mantle clock, the bed, the chair, all of it. I was even happy to see the spooky doll, who didn't look nearly as scary as I remembered.
So I joined the Maui Historical Society. I never got to thank Auntie for lighting this particular fire in me; I figure the best I can do is to pass it forward. Might I suggest a visit to the Bailey House and/or its gift shop? I'd be happy to give you the grand tour. For a dollar. For old times' sake.
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is email@example.com.