Retiree Memories: Blue Hawaii '50s Style

by Tom Leitch
(Clinton Township, MI.)

Hula Doll

Hula Doll

Our friend Anne said, “You’ll cry when you leave Hawaii. I’ve been there three times and I cried each time I left.”

Anne and I share a common bond of not drinking; she was sober four years when I met her some years ago in Alcoholics Anonymous. Knowing Anne to be a great crier, I tended to discount her thoughts on Hawaii with a pleasant smile and a nod.

For Kathy and I it was our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary and we had been wanting to go to Hawaii for years. So, leaving our daughter Sally, twenty-two, in charge of her nine year-old brother, Allan, Kathy and I flew away for eight glorious days in beautiful Hawaii – but not before promising to bring back lots of neat souvenirs.

Arriving in Honolulu was like when Dorothy opened the door and stepped into Oz. “It’s paradise,” we said. And “paradise” was a well-used noun on our postcards to friends back home.

Not having been away from the kids in all our years, Kathy and I wondered what we would talk about for eight days. It was a needless worry. From the outset we were exhilarated at being together.

Through the years we had, of course, exchanged thousands of “I love you’s,” but in Hawaii we found “I love you” had new meaning: we were like kids on our honeymoon. We weren’t people in our mid- forties anymore.

Suspect liver spots had returned to being freckles and there was no evidence of a paunch, varicose veins or stretch marks.

Hawaii’s magic worked on us.

It was comfortable to hold hands as we strolled the shops and souvenir stands and it seemed natural “making out” on Waikiki at sunset – we were sixteen and nineteen again, just a couple of “Rock & Roll” kids from the ’50s. Some evenings over dinner I found myself starring at Kathy. She was tan and radiant and I kept telling her how lovely she looked and that I loved her.

Being in close touch with my feelings, fostering and not discounting them, is one of the fine joys and benefits I have come to realize in my twelve years of sobriety.

On our last day, with a midnight flight home, we flew over to the “Big Island” and checked on Kilauea, which was rumbling and smoking.

Returning to Oahu at 9:00 p.m. we only had time to get cleaned up, grab a bite to eat, and head for the terminal. On the way it had started to rain and Kathy said, “This is probably the best way to leave Hawaii – late at night in a pouring rain.” I squeezed her hand.

After checking in with our airline we had an hour to kill so we browsed the airport souvenir stands lest we had overlooked some sensational doodad. I had sometime that evening started singing the first eight bars of Blue Hawaii. Over and over, every few minutes, I would sing into Kathy’s ear, “Dreams come true in Blue Hawaii” and each time I did we would both get a little more misty.

We were standing in front of the last souvenir stand watching a clerk wind up a hula doll when the p.a. announced, “United Flight Eighty-Two for Los Angeles is now loading.”

As the announcement ended the clerk switched the doll on and it started to shimmy to a music box rendition of Blue Hawaii. From fatigue and emotion we both started sobbing and the tears rolled down our cheeks in earnest. “Stupid dumb doll,” I muttered. “Maybe we should buy a half dozen.” Kathy squeezed my hand some more.

We had seats near the back and having decided that it was useless to try and watch the island lights disappear, we elected to snuggle. We didn’t feel like eating or watching the movie; we wanted to recount and savor our memories. And so raising the armrest between us, and situating our pillows, we pulled the blanket over our heads. Next we put our foreheads together and holding hands, closed our eyes.

We heard the door shut and felt the jitney pushing the 747 back from the terminal. The stewardess made the safety announcement as the pilot taxied to the end of the runway. The 747 made a 180° turn and the pilot revved up the engines. Kathy squeezed my hand and I started my humming. The pilot released the brake and we felt the big plane pick up speed. We felt the drag stop moments later as the wheels left the ground. We were pressed back gently into our seats as the nose tilted up and we heard the whirr of the hydraulic system as the wheels locked into stowage.

“I guess Anne was right,” Kathy whispered.

Her tears fell onto the back of my hand and I nodded my head, “Yes,” as the 747 banked right and headed east.

Wendy: Just HAD to add the Hula doll... beautiful story! Thanks for sharing, Tom!

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