Dedicated to My Family
Submitted by Thomas
When I was 10 years old I saw Hilo Hattie in a movie and I shall never forget watching a Hawaiian boy (my age) diving off of the piers at Aloha Towers to greet an incoming cruise ship. Coins were thrown by passengers into the water, and the Royal Hawaiian Band, all in formal dress uniforms, played a happy tune to welcome everyone as flower leis were graciously placed on the newcomer’s shoulders by gorgeous hula dancers. Black hair, white slacks, perfect teeth, and broad smiles were everywhere. It was 1945, the war was just over and Hawaii showed the world what real hospitality looked like. They called it ALOHA.
It was my dream to dive from that same dockside, smell the salt water and the colorful flowers, get close to the dancers and musicians and dive for coins in the warm waters of Honolulu. Whatever that ALOHA was, I wanted it.
Ten years later I had my chance when I was stationed in the Coast Guard on a ship homeported across the harbor from Aloha Towers on Sand Island. I got to do all of those things, learned to surf, found wonderful friendships with the “locals” and even picked up some pidgin English where the “kine” can mean almost anything and “pilikia” is something you want to avoid. Duke Kahanamoku was still around, Don HO was just starting out at “Honey’s”, his father’s place on the windward side, and Alfred Apaka was the “Voice of the Islands” down at the old Hawaiian Village Hotel. George Downing won the International Surfing Contest at Makaha. Beachboys had names like Buffalo, Steamboat, Blackout, Blue Makua, and Rabbit. For 75 cents you could buy a plate lunch with meat on a stick called “teriyaki” that tasted like nothing you ever had before.
I want to “go back to my little grass shack” and see it today with my wife of 40 years who loves the sun and beach and has earned a reward after a teaching career. I need to prove to her that you can lie down next to a (screened) open window where gardenias grow and you can fall asleep surrounded by heavenly fragrance. I want to pick a flower for her hair from the abundance of red hibiscus everywhere you go. I want her to see the HUMUHUMUNUKUNUKUAPUAA go swimming by. I want to take her barefoot dancing where you can see the sunset and the moon rise “mauka”; where the Hawaiian Wedding Song is sung with the sound of waves breaking on a nearby coral reef. Oh yeah, it’s all ALOHA.
Yes, ALOHA means hello and goodbye but it is also a word that expresses all of the sweet pleasures of life in between that are nowhere to be found but in the Islands of Hawaii. When you are smiling, when you are enjoying yourself and loving others, that’s ALOHA. You can’t send it in a package, you have to come to Hawaii to experience it.