Dad was a "lifer" in the Army. If you're a part of a military family you know all about it-- the constant moving, getting used to different schools and hoping, always hoping, to make new friends. All of that shaped the person I am today.
Some people live their entire lives in their little bit of paradise. I know Oahu folks who've never visited the other side of their island. They have friends they've known since babyhood. They have roots deep in their communities.
We "military brats" have a different reality. Hawaii was home base, but we traveled the Mainland and the world, never staying in one place long enough for the roots to dig in deep. We lived transient, temporary lives while learning to accept and enjoy different peoples and cultures.
I can honestly say I loved it.
But. Hawaii was always home to me.
Wherever we were stationed in the world, my parents sought out Hawaii people. There was always a club, a group, a little community of locals who were just as homesick as we were.
I remember gatherings where transplanted Islanders wore their aloha shirts and muumuus, if it was warm enough. Or they were island casual in shorts and t-shirts and even rubbah slippahs.
They potlucked,of course, and brought the food they missed-- teriyaki, sushi, macaroni salad, kalua pig and lomi salmon.
At some point during the night you could count on some of the men to break out ukulele and sing Hawaiian songs, women and girls to jump up to dance hula. These gathering were like little luaus in drab military housing. Good fun and good for the soul.
I didn't know it then, but we were part of something that would never leave us. Call it island spirit, call it aloha. We were not in Hawaii but Hawaii was in us.
I recently asked on my Facebook page, "what do you miss most when you're away from Hawaii?"
There are a lot of homesick islanders out there.
"I miss the tropical flora with their colors and smells," Muriel Rasmussen shared. "The Pacific Northwest have their fall colors and bountiful annual flowers, but they're gone too soon."
Gale Carillo ticked off all five senses - sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. "Hawaii makes me fully appreciate Mother Nature's creations."
Christine Armstrong said, "I miss the feeling I get when I get off the plane. The Aloha spirit greets me every time and shares the beautiful ocean, the mountains, the flowers and the people with me. Mahalo Nui loa."
I agree, Christine. No matter where our family traveled, when we finally came home and stepped off the plane, the tradewinds greeted us like a tropical kiss.
Susan Doyle: "There’s nothing like the feeling of that warming blast of soft, moist air on your skin and in your nose!"
Robin Irvine: "I miss the gentle breeze with the incredible smell of tropical flowers mingled with the ocean, along with the wonderful Aloha spirit that soothes my soul."
Lauren Carvalho: "I never realized how much I missed the fragrant blossoms as I walked through the airport, the waterfalls on the Koolaus and the greenest trees and bluest ocean. Not to mention the sunrise."
Dalia Lopez misses, well, everything. "The crystal blue ocean, the sound of the waves pounding on the beach, the food, the smells, the people, the weather, the sound of Hawaiian music, and last but not least the hula dancers. I Love Hawaii."
Kim Tsukazaki said it's the aloha spirit she misses most: "I miss the reciprocal “howzzit?” and honi when you meet someone. I look for aloha when I’m away. It’s a response (to the extension of aloha) that I miss."
No matter how long you've been gone, no matter how far you've traveled, chances are you still hold Hawaii close in your heart.
Absence DOES make the heart grow fonder.
In the words of Queen Lili'uokalani
Aloha `oe, aloha `oe
E ke onaona noho i ka lipo
One fond embrace,
A ho`i a`e au
Until we meet again