Laurel Murphy's "Keiki o ka 'Aina" column last week paid beautiful tribute to the old HC&S manager's residence outside Hali'imaile. Before reading her account, I knew little about the historic home, though I have my own fond memories of the place.
As a 10-year-old, I didn't know that the sprawling estate was owned by A&B; I thought it belonged to my friend Mary and her family. Mary Trotter was the new girl at Makawao School and, I learned much later, her father, Fred, was a manager at HC&S. She was friendly and forthright, a bit of a tomboy, and we quickly became good buddies.
On a weekend sleepover at Mary's house, she introduced me to things I'd previously only read or dreamed about: lounging in our pajamas before a glowing fireplace, real waffle iron waffles for breakfast, a backyard as big as a park and just as beautifully landscaped. And, my first and only bareback horse ride.
When Mary asked if I'd like to go horseback riding, it never occurred to me that the horses wouldn't be saddled. Not that I'd had much experience in the saddle either. In fact, I'd only been on a horse once before, not counting the pony rides at the County Fair.
Someone, either Mary's older brother or a stable hand, lifted me onto my steed and instructed me to hold on tight. It was terrifying and tantalizing, all at the same time. Mary showed me how to guide the horse with gentle kicks to its sides and tugs on its mane as we plodded down the unpaved driveway. Then she let out a whoop and her horse took off into an open field. My horse followed suit, a wild stallion galloping carefree through the countryside. At least that's how I remember it. In reality, it was probably more like an old gray mare trotting down a cane haul road. But for a moment, I was Laura Ingalls Wilder on the Midwest prairie, trying to break a frisky Indian pony. Gloriously giddy, I'd never felt so powerful or so helpless.
I took another wild ride in Hali'imaile that same year, this time on two wheels rather than four legs. I was the only kid in the neighborhood who couldn't yet ride a bicycle. My best friend Ruth's three older sisters took it upon themselves to teach me, the way they'd taught her. They took their bikes and me to the last row of houses in the village where the paved road ended at the bottom of a steep hill. The older girls held the bike steady while I got on, walked me to the crest of the hill and then, with the sole instruction being to hold on tight, they let go of the bike and I went careening down the slope. They knew what they were doing; that hill was the only way for me to get up enough speed to learn how to balance. Halfway down the hill, I got it. My body was in tune with the bike and I felt jubilant, gliding along to the cheers of my friends. Until the pavement ran out and I hit the dirt road. Literally. In less than 30 seconds, I'd mastered balance, but I knew nothing about brakes. My triumphant ride ended unceremoniously in the dirt. I didn't mind, though; I walked away with a couple of small scratches and an enormous sense of victory.
Though I never actually lived there, Hali'imaile is the setting for many of my most cherished childhood memories. My baby-sitter, my best friend, my favorite aunt and uncle all lived in the Maui Pine camp, so I spent as much time there as I did at home in Wailuku and Kahului.
Mrs. Akemoto (Auntie Yoshiko-san to me) was my baby-sitter and she made the best ice cakes, with strawberry Malolo syrup or Mission grapeade base. She always let me pull the lever to free the cakes from the ice cube tray.
At Ruth's house, the tangerine tree in the front yard gave us sweet fruit to snack on and cool shade for our marbles games. We'd walk to Hali'imaile Store to pick up the mail and a Popsicle, preferably vanilla. Or we'd take the shorter stroll to Inokuma Store for candy or a soda.
Auntie Sachan and Uncle Minoru-san lived in the one house next to the dispensary, where Uncle worked. It's no longer there; someone bought it and actually moved it, in two pieces, to some location unknown to me. Though not nearly as grand as Mary's, that Hali'imaile house had a rich history as well, at least for me. The memories made in that home could fill several columns - and probably will, eventually. Stay tuned.
* 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.