We got stranded on Maui for Christmas...all good, right?
"Wait. What? What do you mean our flight's been canceled?"
"There was a huge cyber attack that took down the flight controller's software and no flights are coming in or out! Anywhere! They figure we are here until after the day after Christmas!"
"There's no way we can afford to stay here for another three days! What are we going to do?"
"I'll call my sister. She'll help us out, I'm sure."
"Okaaay, I guess. I suppose there are worse places to be stranded," I smile, starting to get into the idea of another few days on Maui.
My husband hands me a Mai Tai. "It's your fault, you know."
"Mine? How is that?"
"You were the one who said you'd changed your mind and had decided to stay here! Remember? 'But I don't want to go home yet.' You had that whine in your voice like I could just snap my fingers and conjure up the money to stay longer!"
I take a gulp of my drink, swallow, and grin. " You call Sis, I'll go talk to reception and see about keeping our room."
Two drinks later, we are all set. Sis dumped money into our account and we can stay as the new people can't get here anyway.
"Here's to extended vacations," I say, toasting him with my drink.
He shakes his head and grins. "I'm going to call the kids and let them know we won't be home for Christmas. I expect they are going to think our being here rather than at home a real hardship."
Sitting out on our lanai, we plot out a new game plan as we relax under the swaying palm trees while listening to the waves break on the beach. Christmas. On Maui. Could certainly be worse. Checking the weather at home via my laptop, it gets even better. The temperature in Pinckney, Michigan is 17 degrees with gusty winds and snow. My phone dings and my daughter has sent a picture of their deck buried under eight inches of snow. There's a knock at our door.
One of the housekeeping staff is there with a cart loaded with mini palm-like trees, lights and decorations. "This is for you. Have to have a tree, right? I am also to let you know that Santa will come tomorrow afternoon and that there will be a big feast on Christmas Day."
A tree? I help him unload the cart, thank him and go back out on the lanai.
"We've got a tree to decorate! Look!"
My husband comes into the room and laughs. "Not quite like the tree at home, is it?"
"It'll work!" I say laughing. We set the small tree on the table in the corner. We have a string of lights, a starfish for the top and silly Hawaiian-themed ornaments.
"So," my husband asks, "How do you say Merry Christmas in Hawaiian?"
"Mele Kalikimaka, you know, like the song."
"Oh. Melikimmie - ah"
"May-lay-kel-lick -e-maka," I sound it out for him."
"Meleakimmieakka?" Epic fail.
"Right. Uh-huh. Presents! I need to go shopping!"
"We don't need presents."
"Christmas. Hello? They might be silly ones, and I don't know about you, but I want stuff to open Christmas morning. HINT HINT!" I stress the hints and make sure I got my point across. He nods, rolls his eyes and makes his calls.
A couple of hours later, I return to our room excited about the silly treasures I found. Wrapping paper is fun in Hawaii. Surfing reindeer, decorated palms, and one with red and green whales on it! This is fun! Wrapped up a silly golf shirt covered in Santas that was at least two sizes too big for my husband. I found it on sale - it would 'do' for our traditional Christmas jammies. I figured we could pile our little finds on top of our flip-flops (or slippers as they are called in Hawaii) and I even had two small oranges for the 'toes' of our 'stockings!'
I see a note saying my hubby will be back by four because we shouldn't miss the snowman building contest on our beach. Snowmen?
Sandmen is more like it. We put wet sand into ball-shaped baskets, pack tightly and then up-end it like a beach pail for making sand castles. The group of folks on the beach are almost all adults, the majority of whom have consoled themselves over their extended vacation with medicinal Mai Tais. Suffice it to say, we were all in very good moods!
Shells for eyes, towel scarves, leis, sunglasses, sun hats, palm fronds for arms and tiki torches replacing brooms or shovels! I text a picture to the kids. Soon there was a small crowd of sandmen scattered across the beach: Standing, sitting, flopped on beach towels, reclining on chaise lounges. One wore a grass skirt, a bikini top and had seaweed hair! We all joined in for an impromptu concert singing I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas and Walking in a (Sandy) Wonderland.
Sunset was clouded over and we could see lightning off in the distance. Still, we stood there with all our creations watching the pod of whales that cavorted just offshore and the light show above them.
The next afternoon had virtually all the guests at the Kaanapali Hotel down on the beach. It was a breezy day with the winds coming in strong across the water. The rain overnight had melted our snowmen into piles of sand that were littered with fallen sunglasses, half-buried scarves, and leis that fluttered in the breeze.
Someone shouted and then people were pointing out towards the water. There was a small motorboat with Santa on the bow wearing a red wetsuit, red tasseled cap on his head, white beard flowing down his chest and a pack on his back. They pulled around behind a sailboat out where the breakers were forming and we lost sight of him.
"Honey! Look!" shouted the man standing next to us who was wearing the hottest neon-pink swim trunks I'd ever seen!. His wife, in a matching bikini, jumped up and down in her excitement. Several men nearby were far more interested in the sight of that woman jumping than in Santa! Were they on the naughty list? Or the nice one?
There was Santa surfing into shore! Everyone was cheering. A bunch of grownups and we were as excited as any kids would be! Santa came 'round to each of us, asking if we'd been good and handing out leis and candy canes.
"Did you hear anyone saying they wanted the planes to be flying again for Christmas?"
"Nope. I told Santa that I wanted a Tiki God for Christmas. He pointed at you and said I already had one!"
My husband looked down at his sunburned beer belly, flexed his muscles comically and replied, "Yes, you do! I asked him for my boss to be good about my using vacation time I don't have. Santa told me, 'Good luck with that!' Wasn't quite the answer I hoped for."
"Well, it's not like we had any choice in the matter. It is a rather long swim! Time enough to worry about that when we get home. Right now? We are on Maui time."
A few hours later and I am attired in my 'Open Christmas Eve' present. Instead of my typical flannel nightgown, my husband had found me a wildly floral hibiscus-print caftan. "Never thought I'd ever sleep in a golf shirt," he laughs.
I join in, but say, "Who said anything about sleeping?" Laughs become giggles as a tickle fight ensues that quickly morphs into the best Christmas Eve ever.
Christmas morning dawned, gifting us with a pink and mauve sky over the mountains behind us with long ribbon-like streamers stretching out over Molokai. We opened our silly presents and my husband actually did get me a two-foot-tall carved wooden Tiki God, Ku. We drank Kona coffee, called the kids and laughed a lot. Checking the news on our laptop, we found out that though many flights were grounded all across the US, planes should be up and flying within twenty-four hours. People were advised to start checking on rescheduling their flights. When we called the airline, we found out we could get a flight out the next evening at 10 PM.
"Darn. I was hoping another few days. I could get used to this!"
"Me too," my husband said. "Oh, by the way ... Mele Kimakikama!"
"Wow, did you ever fracture that! Merry Christmas to you, too, Sweetheart. We should probably head up for our Christmas feast soon."
We were not expecting a Kalikimaka Luau! We were handed red and green leis and escorted to our table which we were sharing with other fellow castaways. A big buffet was set up complete with turkey and all the fixings. Sort of. There was the required purple poi. The dressing was Hawaiian style with poke and some kind of seaweed in it. I had no clue what some of the other foods were, but as we quickly discovered, multiple Mai Tais made everything taste fantastic! While we ate, dancers sinuously swayed a traditional 'Mele Kalikimaka Hula' accompanied by immense drums and loin-clothed male dancers twirling torches. There was a group sing-along and we sang every carol we knew and learned some Hawaiian ones. The announcer informed us it was officially a white Christmas as it was snowing on Haleakala. As the dinner wound down, the sunset streaked the skies with yet more ribbons of color to tie up our day into a perfect package. We all left, carrying lit candles and singing Silent Night in Hawaiian as we wended our way back to our rooms. Voices wafted out over the water all up and down the beach.
Po la`i e, po kamaha`o,
Ka makuahine aloha e
Me ke keiki hemolele e
Moe me ka maluhia lani
Moe me ka maluhia lani
Later, cuddled up next to my husband, I murmured sleepily, "It was a perfect Hawaiian Christmas."
"Hon, wake up."
I opened my eyes. I'm in our room, in our bed. In Michigan. "Huh?"
It's awfully early, but since we're awake, Mele Kalikimaka!"
"Hmm." I reach for my glasses. Try to focus. "When did you learn how to pronounce Merry Christmas in Hawaiian? But Merry Christmas to you too! Why are we awake so early?"
"You were talking in your sleep."
"Oh." I smiled. "I had the best dream, we were ..."
"Mom!" My daughter's voice interrupts from the hallway. "I heard you guys talking. You up? It's Christmas!"