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It took us almost four hours on a two-lane road to get from Waimea to Palolo Valley in my father's '52 Plymouth. Most of the ride I spent sleeping in the large back seat of the sedan. My head began to nod as we drove past the undulating green waves of sugarcane with white tassels signaling in the wind. After that came the disciplined row after row of pineapple fields on both sides of Wahiawa.

Every now and then we would come up behind a lumbering pineapple laden truck huffing its way to the plant. Muttering under his breath, careful not to swear, my dad downshifted the Plymouth. We are talking about standard column shift here! Then came the swarms of black pineapple bugs hitting the windshield and errant ones flying into the car itself. Double clutching the old four-door clunker, Dad stomped the accelerator to the floor. The heaving engine responded with a wheeze and then a roar. We found ourselves overtaking the truck only to come up behind a convoy of army trucks from Schofield creeping along at the regulation speed of 25 mph.

That was my family and me on our way to visit my mom's sisters in Palolo. I was full of anticipation at playing with my City Cousins. How I admired them. They had such an exciting life. The city was full of lights and action. Cars honked their way along the avenues. Buses roared along the streets. You could go see 'wrassaling' at the Civic Auditorium. My Uncle Earl was a professional wrestler the "Sheik". His sons were always boasting about their father's victories. How I wanted so much to live in the city. Hoo da junk live in da sticks!!

And they had Television! Oh man, how amazing was that? I could eat my dinner and watch the T.V. Mickey Mouse Club! I was in love with Annette. Chubby Roland. Captain Honolulu. Even Filopino Fiesta! No laugh! No such thing in da sticks! Junk, no?

During the summertime, my City Cousins would be brought out to our place in the country. We lived along side the Waimea River. They joined me in Pirate games on the river. Hikes up to the falls and discoveries of caves and hidden trails were all part of a typical summer day in the country.

Mom cooked, baked ulu and goodies in our kerosene stove. That's right we didn't have electricity. A trip to Niimi Store on the highway at Pupukea was a necessity every couple of days to buy block ice for the "ice box" and kerosene for the lamps and stove.

How I envied my City Cousins with their bus riding adventure stories and "stuff" they saw on TV. I was actually ashamed of our humble lifestyle. I always thought the reason they were at the house for a couple of weeks in the country was punishment. I could imagine my Aunty saying: "Ok, just for THAT, you will spend two weeks in the country!" I mean why else would they come down? Hoo man, the city was so cool! I would trade places in a flash!

The summer months and breezy days meandered through our lives. It flowed through the years like the river moving slowly yet deliberately toward the bay. The sounds of buffo frogs echoing across the water at night blended with the crash of winter surf a half mile away. Our lives and the lives of those around us were destined to be irrevocably changed by events that would take place.

Statehood. The Viet Nam war. The assassination of John F. Kennedy. The Nixon years. The resurgence of Hawaiian Sovereignty. Events on Kahoolawe. Our music, our culture, our lifestyles, our language, our Island home forever changed.

I recently wrote and published a short story about life in Waimea Valley. One of my "city cousins" now living on the mainland sent me an email saying how much he enjoyed the story.

"You know what, Cuz?" he wrote, "The best memories I have of my youth was spending summer months at your house in the country. I can't tell you how we looked forward to being at the house. Thank you for sharing and bringing back those warm memories. I can still smell the breadfruit baking in the kerosene oven. I always envied your life in the country and wished I could trade places with you in a flash. There was always exciting things to do. Those days were the best."

How fascinating. Others treasured what I took for granted. Human nature deems that we overlook the gifts we have right in front of us. As a spiritual nature evolves we begin to develop an appreciation for who, what, and where we are. No matter what blessings we are entrusted with we learn to treasure them. It's apparent that when we do, the greatest rewards come.

Over the years, I have been doing just that: Recalling and re-appreciating my gifts. It would benefit us all if we would take the time to do just that. "Imagine" John Lennon sang. Just Imagine.

About Author

Kamaka Brown is a staff member on AlohaWorld. Originally from the North Shore of Oahu, he now resides in California. He is a published writer, motivational speaker, board certified trainer and professional comic. He makes annual trips to Honolulu for an ohana reunion each summer. It's there he reconnects with his "city cousins" now living around the world.

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