Tomorrow, my son turns 45. He’ll be celebrating in Michigan, as he has for the past two and a half decades. But I’m pretty sure I’ll smell him tonight.
No, that’s not a typo. I’m looking forward to the sweet scent of baby sweat that permeates this recurring dream of mine. Once a year or so, my Jimmy is a toddler again, snuggled in my arms as I sing him to sleep. I kiss each of his plump little fingers, dimpled where the knuckles should be. As I feel myself awakening, I hug him tightly, trying to make the dream last a little longer, clinging to the days when we were each other’s world.
When I call him tomorrow, we’ll reminisce and I’ll retell my favorite mother/son story, about the time he accompanied his stepfather and me to a company party. We had recently moved from Maui to Honolulu, and most of our co-workers assumed that Kelly was Jimmy’s biological father. Someone remarked to Jimmy, “I guess you’re going to grow up to be big and strong like your daddy,” pointing across the room to Kelly, who, at 6 feet, 2 inches tall, towered over me by more than a foot.
Loudly and forcefully, my 4-year-old corrected him. “Nuh-UH! I’m gonna be big and strong like my MOMMY!”
It didn’t take long for him to surpass that goal. Now, 40 years later, he and I are both hoping to emulate my own mother, who is also approaching a milestone birthday. She’ll be 97 in a couple of weeks. I figure, once you’ve reached 90, every year after that is a milestone.
Regular readers of this column may remember some of mom’s previous birthday commemorations. For her 83rd, she went parasailing and got her first tattoo. She celebrated her 85th on the back of a Harley-Davidson and rode the waves in an outrigger canoe the following year. That was the same year she made her motion picture debut with a speaking role in the feature film “Get a Job.” Two more birthday tattoos were inked on her 87th and 90th birthdays. We were set to go on a cruise for her 95th birthday, but the coronavirus messed up those plans. Maybe we’ll celebrate her 98th birthday at sea.
This year, though, she says she can’t think of anything exciting to do, since she completed her bucket list years ago. She doesn’t want a party or an off-island getaway, not even to Las Vegas. I did convince her to join me for a special event, though, one in which she will twinkle like the star she is.
On Sunday, July 10, at 1:30 p.m., mom will be my guest on the interview series, “Yakamashii! Making Noise & Talking Story with Kathy Collins & Friends.” Presented by the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center, the bimonthly series gives me the opportunity to talk story with a variety of folks; previous guests include storyteller Alton Chung and filmmaker Brian Kohne. This month, the hourlong program will be a hybrid event; you can join us in person or online via Zoom. Call the NVMC office at (808) 244-6862 to register.
We’ll talk about old-time Maui (1930s-1960s), especially Makawao, where mom was born and raised. Maybe I can convince her to share her secret to longevity. You’ll have an opportunity to ask questions and comment as well. If you have any ideas for a birthday adventure, she may welcome your suggestions. One thing for sure, if you ask, she’ll happily show off her tattoos.
* 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 email@example.com.