I am going to be the keynote speaker at a big conference here in Oshkosh were we now live. For some reason when I got the invitation I flashed on what I would wear to show off the lei I would be given. I used to hate singing with the double carnation lei that was so popular during the time when George Ariyoshi was in office. Those leis were so hot!
When I sang with the Hawaii Vocal Arts Ensemble I got to choose the leis for the soloists and the director. I’d try and get florist to donate them, but we also paid out of our small budget.
The best leis we got were always from Sadie at the A Picket Fence Florist in Kailua. Sadie was always so generous and she took so care with everything she created.
Of course there won’t be a lei for me as a speaker, they don’t do that here. I miss getting and giving leis.
I have a little Hawaii corner in my kitchen and every one of these except one came from a luau. When I worked at Expedia I’d go to lots of shows and luaus where I would get a lei and so I’d put them in a drawer and I’d give them to my special guests. People loved when I’d run around the desk and drape a lei over their neck and give them a kiss on both cheeks. Every person acted like they had been given the best gift they had ever received.
The orange lei came from a guest who stayed at the Hawaii Prince Hotel during a time when we made no money at all. It was the Jehovah’s Witness convention. I met some lovely people and they all wore these lei for two weeks. One of them came up to me and said he realized I was not making money since they had booked tours and shows on their own and spent much of their time doing missions. He asked me to book whatever made the most money for me since I was on commission. I told him the money would come next week and not to worry.
He took off his lei and draped it over my neck, gave me a hug, and slipped me a one hundred dollar bill. He said that his week in Hawaii was the best trip he’d ever taken and that the aloha spirit he had heard about was very much alive.
I spend a lot of time in my kitchen and seeing these lei leave me both sad and happy. I really miss Hawaii and the people and the kindness.
I’m doing my best to share aloha here in Wisconsin even if I won’t get a lei in June when I do my talk.