For as long as I can remember, I have looked forward to visits to Hawaii.
When I was little, my mother and I would get on a plane to Honolulu almost every summer for family reunions. She and her four sisters grew up in Hawaii, and my grandfather still lived there, so we always had a place to stay. Sometimes all my aunts and cousins would show up at once, but most of the time, each family unit would have overlapping vacations so that there wasn’t too much chaos at my grandfather’s house.
Even then, I remember the sleeping arrangements becoming more and more creative, what with three generations sleeping under one roof: there were two guest bedrooms, a basement apartment (which always smelled like mildew), the living room, a two guest rooms down the road at the Friends Meeting House (available at reasonable rates for our family, as we were Friends), and a tent in the backyard. I remember my cousins (all boys) vying for tent privileges; sleeping outdoors in the middle of Hawaii is not a bad way to spend your vacation, let me tell you!
My grandfather (we all called him “Gung-Gung”) had an amazing garden, resplendent with as many fruit trees as he could get away with on the property. A plentiful harvest of bananas, starfruit, guavas, mangos, and even breadfruit graced the table every morning. He also had macadamia trees, the nuts of which he would harvest, peel, and roast all year long. Our Christmas packages always included a jar of his very own macadamia nuts.
The best part about vacationing in Hawaii with our family is that we knew all the local hangouts. We would forgo the tourist-laden beaches of Waikiki and instead hop in the truck to Ala Moana. If we wanted to snorkel, we’d go to Hanauma Bay (this was before it was well-known; I thought it was our own little secret).
Invariably, we would all take a day trip to go to the North Shore. We would always stop at Matsumoto’s for a shave ice on our way to the Haleiwa house. Gung-Gung had built this one-bedroom house all by himself, and from time to time he rented it out. At the time that he had purchased the land, everything around it had been owned by C&H, and I remember driving through a forest of sugarcane to get to a house on stilts proudly standing in the middle of a rectangular area of cleared land.
Gung-Gung was fearless. I remember one time we were driving down the highway, and he spotted some ripe coconuts on a palm tree near the road. He directed my uncle to pull over, and my cousins and I watched in disbelief as he shimmied up the tree to retrieve the coconuts. His legs were cut from the rough bark, but he had the biggest smile on his face as he held up his trophies.
Now Gung-Gung is gone; he passed away in 2003 from Alzheimer’s Disease. My mother had moved to Honolulu a few years earlier to help take care of him, and now she is the new resident local family member. She lives in the Haleiwa house that Gung-Gung built, and she always encourages us to come visit as much as possible!
When I got married in Hawaii, the trip ended up being a three-generation affair once more. My cousin’s daughter (named Sam after Gung-Gung) was one of my flower girls, and her grandmother (my aunt, who she calls “Po-Po”) was also there. Everybody stayed in neighboring bungalows on the beach, and that large extended-family comfortableness that I recalled from my childhood was back, just as I wanted.
I think there is something very magical about Hawaii, especially where my family is concerned. I know my husband loves Hawaii (“Everything moves at my pace,” he says), so the only discussion we have about vacation spots is where in Hawaii we want to visit next. If/when we ever have any children, there is no question we will be making family trips out there regularly so my kids can be infused with that same magic.
This week’s Indie Ink Writing Challenge came from Tara, who gave me this prompt:
A three-generation family vacation.