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Big Island Memories

Nida Spalding loves to read, travel, and spend time with family and friends. She believes that curiosity and persistence are key to happiness and success.

Kona-Kailua Airport had a familiar feel to it, the gentle breeze and bright sun. There was no lei greeting but my heart felt the aloha spirit, a loving welcome. As I stood on the tarmac, I felt the warm sun on my face as I squinted towards the ramp, waiting to get a glimpse of my son. Although we boarded the plane together in California, Ryan chose to sit in the back of the plane and was one of the last to get off.

My father and I landed on this same airport 23 years ago. Seeing the lava rocks as the plane taxied grounded me, feeling a connection to the place. Walking out of the airport towards the middle island to wait for the rental car shuttle, I gazed at the concrete bench where my brother and I had taken turns being photographed with my father.

Ryan didn't care which Hawaiian island we visited. The Big Island was an easy choice because Naalehu, my father's birthplace is there.

I wanted Ryan to set foot in Naalehu and see the places I visited with my father. But something told me this trip with my son would be different.

At 22 years old, Ryan's interests differ from mine. All he wanted was to learn how to surf. Before leaving for Hawaii, I suggested he look into surf lessons. At the Kona Coast Resort where we stayed, the concierge recommended lessons. "No. I already watched YouTube videos," he said.

"Okay, he wants to learn the hard way," said Todd, the concierge.

Ryan wanted to learn how to surf but didn't want to take lessons. What's a helicopter mom to do? Even though I was paying for this vacation, I couldn't tell him what to do. I could but he wouldn't listen. And I understood. I don't like to be told what to do, either. I didn't want to ruin our vacation by arguing with him.


I was glad I paid for those swim lessons and nine years of swim team membership. He's a strong swimmer. But I was free to worry about him, watch him from the shore in Kahaluu Bay, and take pictures surreptitiously. Thankfully, he did fine learning on this own and didn't get hurt.

As for me, any visit to Hawaii is incomplete without a luau. I booked one prior to our departure from California. Ryan asked me, "What is a luau?"

"It's a Hawaiian party, a feast with storytelling, singing and dancing."

I forwarded to him information about luaus from Hawaii-guide.com. He texted back, "Dope." I didn't know until much later that this meant, "awesome, excellent, cool."

Along with the high cost of hotel accommodations, the price of the luau even at the discounted price of $142 per person seemed a bit steep. But I wanted Ryan to experience this Hawaiian tradition. I chose the "Voyagers of the Pacific" at the Royal Kona Resort where my father and I stayed and attended a luau years ago. Standing there right next to Kailua Bay, I watched the waves crash on the rocks as the sun was setting across the Pacific Ocean. The coconut and banana trees on the grounds reminded me of home in the Philippines.

If what Ryan told his dad was any indication, the best part of the luau for my son was being able to order free booze at the open bar.

"Did he talk about the Samoan fire dance?" I asked his dad.

"Nah, that's for old people."

Oh, well. Ryan is entitled to his own memories.

~ Nida Spalding








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