After reading the Aug. 25 “Sharing Mana’o” about Church Street and childhood adventures with my cousin Mark, my mother asked why I hadn’t mentioned our Bailey House exploits.
“Selling leis at Hale Ho’ike’ike?” I asked. “I already wrote about that, a few years ago.”
“Oh,” she replied, “I thought maybe you left it out because you were embarrassed about getting in trouble.”
“We got in trouble?”
And for the first time, after nearly 60 years, I learned the rest of the story.
Maui in the early 1960s was as sweet and innocent as the pair of preschoolers Mark and I were. Our parents allowed us to explore our Wailuku neighborhood on our tricycles. On our own, we cruised Wells Park, spent hours at the public library, even visited the fire station, where the firemen served us cookies and invited us to watch TV with them.
But our favorite hangout was Hale Ho’ike’ike, where the kindly docents allowed us full access to the museum. With brown-bagged sandwiches in hand, we’d pedal up Iao Valley Road as far as our little legs could take us, then walk our trikes the rest of the way. After checking on our favorite exhibits (mine was the bedroom with the four-poster bed and the display of missionary garments), we’d picnic in the sunny yard and greet tourists.
Eventually, we came up with the brilliant idea to string plumeria lei for the malihini. Mom and Auntie Jennie helped us find and pick the flowers, unaware that we were selling the lei for 50 cents each. Nor did they know we were giving guided tours of the museum for an extra dollar.
After a couple of weeks (here’s the part mom recently filled in for me), my mother’s boss at Maui Pine unknowingly let the cat out of the bag.
“Yaemi,” he chuckled, “does your daughter have a general excise tax license?”
Utterly confused, my mother asked Mr. DuBois what he meant by that. He informed her that his wife was a museum volunteer and had told him about the two little entrepreneurs who charmed the tourists out of their loose change.
Thus ended our enterprise. Mom was shocked to learn that our passion for making plumeria lei was born out of capitalism, not aloha spirit.
She probably gave me a stern lecture at the time, but I guess I blocked it from memory. I always thought we stopped because we had picked the trees clean.
This was not the first time my mother surprised me with an epilogue to one of my childhood stories.
When Davy Jones passed away in 2012, I devoted a column to the memory of my favorite Monkee, recalling how thrilled I was when the band announced plans for a concert in Honolulu. I fantasized for days, picturing myself in the front row, catching Davy’s eye with my white patent leather go-go boots — which, I reasoned, mom could surely order from the Sears catalog. Of course, I knew it was an impossible dream, being barely 9 years old at the time.
So I wrote a letter to the Monkees, begging them to take a side trip to Maui. “You don’t even have to do a concert, just come and visit. You can stay at my house.” Mind you, this is the same tiny two-bedroom termite haven I wrote about two weeks ago. But I figured the boys could all bunk in the living room, like they often did in their TV show.
They never replied.
After reading that column, my mom sheepishly confessed a 45-year-old secret. Mortified by the thought of TV stars visiting our humble little Church Street home, she had never mailed my letter. “I couldn’t believe you actually invited them to our house!”
“I can’t believe you thought they might actually come!” I sputtered.
That’s my mom, as sweet and innocent as 1960s Maui.
* Kathy Collins is a radio personality (The Buzz 107.5 FM and KEWE 97.9 FM/1240 AM), storyteller, actress, emcee and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every other Wednesday. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.