We arrived at Honolulu International Airport and easily found our hotel, Penny had stayed there a few times and took us straight to it. It was amazing! We had two tiny water bungalows that had to be waded to through the water. We decided that Anna and I would share one hut and that Mama and Penny would share the other. Mama and Penny had been best friends for over thirty years and still stayed up giggling half the night like school girls.
“You can legally drink!” Penny smiled as we all gathered around the bar. I felt uncomfortable, but tried not to let it show.
“I’m getting old…”
“Old?” Mama made a silly face at me. “Twenty one is just the beginning of your life!”
“She’s old.” Anna agreed. “We’re still supposed to be little girls.”
“Whatever you say.” Mama handed me a cocoanut shell filled with a tangy blend of pineapple juice, rum, and cocoanut milk.
“Mmmm.” I found a seat along the sideline where I could observe from afar. Mama and Penny came and sat with me, but Anna made her rounds among the young attractive people that were obviously tourists too.
“You’d think it was her birthday.”
“Anna doesn’t wait for birthdays to demand attention.” Penny was right.
“We don’t need Anna to party! We can have a good time, just the three of us!” Mama raised her glass and I hit it with my fuzzy drink.
The rest of the night was fun. We sat like three old hens, talking about how spirited the young folk were and laughing at the people who had a few too many. I had no urge to get out there and dance around like Anna, but I did wish that I had the ability to let loose and be twenty one.
“Do you mind staying in Mama and Penny’s hut tonight?” Anna was holding hands with one of the fire dancers, he was barefooted and barely dressed.
“I guess not.” I rolled my eyes. Some birthday.
“Thanks, sis.” Anna gave me a peck on the cheek and excitedly scurried off into the darkness toward our rooms.
Day two of our Hawaiian weekend went about the same way as the first afternoon and night. I was twenty-one years and one day old. Mama, Penny, and Anna wanted to sleep in before hitting the beach, and I wanted to explore the island. We were staying on the island of Oahu, and I headed off alone for a morning of exploring and learning.
My first stop was USS Arizona Memorial. I had always been fascinated with Pearl Harbor, and wanted to see the oil that still leaked to the surface of the water. I took a boat over, and was humbled at the thought of all the lost lives and all the families that had been changed after that day. I watched the black tears rise to the surface, after over sixty years, the ocean still wept.
Next I headed to the other local tourist attraction, alone. I saw Diamond Head, Honolulu Academy of Arts, Royal Mausoleum of Hawaii, and the Nu’uana Freshwater Fish Refuge. I had an amazing day, and knew good and well that they were probably just sipping mixed drinks by the ocean. I was so different from them!
“Have a good day, sweetie?” Mama had on a giant hat, was wearing a French cut black swimsuit, and as expected had a drink in her hand.
“I did!” I was still excited. “I spent a fortune, but I saw almost everything that I wanted!” I still wanted to see Aloha Tower, but decided to wait until dark to see it all lit up.
“I’m glad. You shouldn’t have snuck out, I would have gone too.” I didn’t believe her, but it was nice of her to say.
“Oh sorry.” I headed to my hut to change into a swimsuit. I still had a few hours left of sunshine, and was ready to relax. Anna was still in bed. “Why are you in bed?”
“I didn’t sleep much.” Anna looked like she was in love, but I knew that look and knew she wasn’t in love.
“Well I won’t bother you. I’m just putting on a swimsuit.” I tied the tropical print bikini that Mama had bought me for the trip and pulled my hair into a pony tail.
“Where have you been anyway?” Anna stretched.
“I did the tourist thing.” I didn’t feel like telling her details.
“Not at all! I loved it. I think lying in a bed all day is boring actually.” I snapped.
“I guess we all have different ideas about what a vacation is.” Anna slid on a swimsuit and followed me out into the knee deep water. “What is your problem anyway?”
“I don’t have a problem.” I kept my back to her. What was my problem? It was my birthday trip and she had barely said two words to me. She was too busy being popular and hung over.
“You mad because I brought Kekipi home with me last night?” Anna caught up with me.
“No. I don’t care who you bring home, Anna. I just have to keep reminding myself how very different we are.” I held my tongue, although I wanted to tell her that she was exactly like Father.
“I won’t party tonight… I’ll stay with you.” Anna sounded sorry, but I doubted it would last.
“Well, if you want to spend time with me tonight, I’m going to Aloha Tower.”
“The lighthouse?” Anna asked.
“Yes, it is supposed to be beautiful. I don’t really want to go alone.”
“I’d love to.” Anna grabbed my hand and we walked toward Mama and Penny.
By some strange twist of fate, Anna spent the rest of the vacation trying to cater to my wishes. She only brought her boyfriend around after making sure it was okay with me, and Kekipi was actually a really nice guy. He was much nicer than the guys she dated at home. Mama and Penny got all of their relaxing out, and the birthday vacation was a success! As we waded our way toward the shore with our luggage floating on a little wooden boat, I almost hated to go back to the real world. In Hawaii I felt like the pains and struggles of my life were miles and miles away, and that was where I liked them-- back home in South Carolina with Father!