This Friday is my best friend’s birthday. That’s right, Sept. 11. I used to feel sorry for Robbie because she had to share her special day with the anniversary of Hurricane Iniki, which hit Hawaii in 1992 and is still the largest (Category 4) and costliest ($1.8 billion) storm to make landfall here. Then came 2001 and the rest, as they say, is history.
Because my birthday is two days after hers, we established a tradition of celebrating for three straight days. And for the last couple of years, since we’ve both passed the 60-year milestone, we’ve declared the entire month to be party time. That’s not as decadent as it sounds; mostly we just gorge ourselves at all of our favorite restaurants.
Six months ago, we talked about changing up our birthday routine, doing something completely different this year. Ha! Never again will I dismiss the cautionary “Be careful what you wish for.”
Much of my PC (Pre-COVID) time, personal and professional, was spent in the midst of large gatherings, emceeing luau shows and Friday Town Parties or working up a sweat on crowded dance floors. It’s been a slow, sometimes frustrating, process, but I’ve finally adjusted to this surreal, socially distanced world. My longtime love/hate affair with social media has evolved into, well, settling for a less than perfect relationship. Like the song goes, “If you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with.”
Once I accepted the fact that my 2020 birthday won’t be celebrated with dance parties or a weekend on a Neighbor Island, the virtual possibilities began presenting themselves.
Following Facebook’s suggestion and the examples set by quite a few of my friends, I started a birthday fundraiser for one of my favorite worthy causes. From now until Sept. 18, I’m accepting donations on my Facebook page for the Maui Academy of Performing Arts. MAPA’s annual Educational Theater Tour, in which I’ve participated for the past three years, was cancelled by COVID this year. While it isn’t as exhilarating as performing for and engaging with preschoolers and elementary school audiences, this online fundraiser does give me the warm fuzzies.
Happily, I will get to enjoy live music (and dancing, albeit alone) on my birthday weekend, while I host the “Shelter in Place” concert series on the Maui Coffee Attic Facebook page. You can join me virtually for the Maui Jam Band on Friday and Kaina Country on Saturday; both shows begin at 5 p.m.
On Sunday, my mom and I will enjoy a quiet brunch together before Zooming with my son and granddaughters in Michigan. Then I’ll probably close out my birthday with a Netflix binge or a YouTube rabbit hole.
I’ll admit, as much as I miss face-to-face socializing, last weekend’s Virtual Okinawan Festival showed me that there are a few advantages to pandemic partying. Hosted by the Hawaii United Okinawa Association, the two-day celebration was “attended” by thousands, maybe even tens of thousands, of folks. The festival T-shirt I ordered online arrived Saturday morning, so I wore it while participating in the virtual bon dance that night. Alone, but feeling a definite connection to my fellow Uchinanchu (and Uchinanchu at heart) around the world, I giggled, then wept for joy at dancing to the same songs performed every year at the Rinzai Zen Obon. The Paia bon dance is the only one in the state which uses live musicians and Okinawan songs, exclusively. I’ve danced there nearly every year since I was four or five years old, in honor of my father’s father, who was laid to rest at the church grounds in 1961.
Oahu participants in the virtual festival were encouraged to pick up traditional foods from participating businesses and organizations to enjoy at home during the online presentations. I didn’t have any andagi or shoyu pork, but that was my choice. Still trying to lose the extra pounds I gained in the first month of stay-at-home orders.
Now that I think about it, I guess it’s a good thing Robbie and I won’t be making our birthday rounds this year. Hopefully I’ll be back down to fighting weight by September 2021.
* Kathy Collins is a radio personality (The Buzz 107.5 FM), storyteller, actress, emcee and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every other Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.