Sharing Mana‘o

This week, as Makawao prepares for its final Third Friday town party, I am pondering the many meanings of aloha, in terms of my favorite Upcountry town.

The shortcut definition of aloha, as every tourist can tell you, is hello, goodbye and love. A deeper, wider interpretation is found in the “Aloha Spirit law,” section 5-7.5 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes, which reads, in part:

“Aloha” is more than a word of greeting or farewell or a salutation, “Aloha” means mutual regard and affection and extends warmth in caring with no obligation in return. “Aloha” is the essence of relationships in which each person is important to every other person for collective existence.

The Makawao I remember from my childhood was filled with that kind of aloha. We kids were safe, comfortable, carefree. From our teachers and principal Bill Tavares at Makawao Elementary School to the mom-and-pop shopkeepers and their customers, every grownup we encountered was like family. Sure, there were a couple of grumpy uncles in the bunch, but we knew they cared for us and were looking after us, even Watanabe Sensei, our super-strict Japanese School teacher at Makawao Hongwanji.

For my mother, born and raised in Makawao, the neighborhood was knit even tighter. I used to marvel at the stories she’d tell me about families pooling their meager resources to support each other; about the landlady who would scold her for bringing the family’s rent payment late, then insist on feeding her fresh fruit from her backyard.

No longer the tiny village that raised generations of children like Mom and me, Makawao has managed to retain a sense of community in the midst of ever-increasing visitor traffic. For the past eight years, Makawao merchants and volunteers organized the monthly Third Friday block party, which became, like the other Maui Fridays sites, an eagerly anticipated neighborhood social event.

Sadly, this week’s party will be the last for the Makawao Merchants Association (see reporter Melissa Tanji’s July 30 article in The Maui News) but as their website says, they’re going out with a bang! Entertainment will include the Jimmy Dillion Band, the Travastar Starlight Fire and Light Show, storytelling, stiltwalkers, even a TV-style game show with prizes. Along with Third Friday regulars like the Maui Classic Cruisers Club with their vintage autos, the Get Up and Dance line dancers, and pop-up food booths and trucks, town merchants will celebrate the occasion with in-store parties and specials. The Keiki Zone in the Komoda parking lot will include life-size yard games and a keiki book exchange sponsored by Roots School (so bring your gently used children’s books to swap for brand-new-to-you ones).

And in a show of optimism, this month’s Third Friday theme is not “Aloha (as in farewell),” but “A Hui Hou”“until we meet again.”

This month, Makawao also bids aloha — this time as a greeting — to the first-ever executive director of the Makawao History Museum, Morris Haole Jr. A hometown boy whose family roots run deeper in the Upcountry soil than mine, Morris is passionate about the museum and its mission to “preserve and share the cultural heritage of our Upcountry community by bringing history to life for present and future generations.”

It was on a Third Friday (November 2013) when the Makawao History Project first presented its collection of oral histories and artifacts in a vacant storefront on Makawao Avenue. With support from volunteers, the community, the County of Maui and various charitable organizations, the project evolved into a permanent museum, now located on Baldwin Avenue. The MHM also conducts walking tours of the town, offers history-related merchandise, and continues to gather oral history from longtime residents.

This Friday, I hope you’ll join me in to greeting Morris at the museum, bidding a fond farewell to Makawao Third Friday, and communing with friends old and new, all in the spirit of aloha.

* Kathy Collins is a radio personality (The Buzz 107.5 FM), storyteller, actress, emcee and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is kcmaui913@gmail.com.