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(A Mother's Day Tribute)
Story & Photos by Donna Yuen

The years have slipped by so quickly. Turning towards her now I notice her gray hairs, and the wrinkles growing almost imperceptibly from the corners of her eyes. I remember how cautiously she would watch over me with those piercing eyes. But that was when I was little. When did she age? And when did I grow up? We are still the same people though: she, my loving mother, and I her dutiful daughter. It has been eight years since we last traveled together, so we are long overdue for this impromptu mother-daughter trip to Maui.

We begin our Maui adventure by exploring the historic town of Lahaina. After delving into the multitude of shops along Front Street, we make our way to Courthouse Square seeking respite from the sweltering heat. We pause under the famous banyan tree, with its dangling roots snaking down from the sky. It dates back to 1873, planted to mark the 50th anniversary of Lahaina's first Christian mission. Originally from India, the banyan tree in Maui is now composed of 12 major trunks in addition to its central core. Covering a 200 square foot area, the tree is a gathering place and craft fairs are often held here to display the wares of local artisans.

Under the cool shade of the banyan, Kalolo, a Hawaiian woodcarver chips away at his latest creation. Dozens of wooden tiki carvings adorn the nearby craft tables. Kalolo is originally from Tonga and has been carving wood since he was 10 years old. Decades later he now chisels his beautiful creations from Koa wood, a hardwood indigenous to Hawaii.

With his friendly, welcoming manner, typical of most Hawaiians, Kalolo is happy to explain to me the symbolism of his work. He tells me that the wooden figures signify many things; eyes pointed downwards symbolize the safety and security of family; eyes pointed upwards, symbolizes prosperity, love, peace and happiness. He reiterates to me the importance of family. Nodding in agreement, I scan the crowd for my mother. She is blissfully bartering for hand-made strings of seashells. It has been a while since I have seen her smile so much.

Hula music drifts through the air to us as we stand near the ancient trailing roots of the giant Banyan. Little dancers dressed in their floral costumes sway their hips to a tropical beat. Magenta leis adorn their necks as their tiny hands gracefully flow back and forth unfurling a story. I suggest to my mother that we should take advantage of the free hula lessons offered at the hotel. She chuckles at me, saying she is old and it is too late for that. I disagree: we are never too old and it is never too late…

Having opted to forego the hula lessons, no visit to Maui would be complete for my mother without seeing some of the numerous botanical gardens. Colourful and fragrant, the Enchanting Floral Gardens has over 2000 species of semi-tropical and tropical plants-hibiscus, proteas, and orchids growing among a plentitude of fruit trees. An avid plant lover, my mother is in her glory surrounded by banks of flowering shrubbery. She ambles along the garden path approaching one glorious bloom after another. With the excitement of a child, she gently gathers a flower in her hand gesturing for me to look at the sheer size of the bloom. She lowers her head savoring the tropical fragrance and then runs with glee towards another unusual protea.

As she dashes between rare tropical plants and exquisite blossoms I warn her to pay attention to the uneven ground. It is ironic that I now watch over her with caution. Running to catch up, I slip my fingers into her warm, familiar hand; I am reassured by the comfort it gives me. I turn to her and there is a twinkle in her eye as she gives me a broad delighted smile.

For both of us this has been a wonderfully memorable trip. My mother's pleasure at visiting these gardens, her enjoyment of sampling tropical fruit, or rummaging through colorful seashells at the local markets has brought a sparkle to her eyes. We have shared a precious time together as mother and daughter in Maui's tropical paradise.

I never did manage to convince her to take hula lessons with me, but perhaps next time. Or rather, definitely next time!


Where to stay:
Ka'anapali Beach Hotel
Toll free 1-800-262-8450

Where to eat:
Mala Ocean Tavern
Tel: 808-667-9394

Penne Pasta Café
Tel: 808-661-6633

The Pineapple Grill
Tel:: 808-669-9600
Fax: 808-669-6222

For more information go to: Maui Visitors Bureau or

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PHOTOS by Donna Yuen:

1. Hula girls performing in Lahaina
2. The author's mother shows off a protea bloom
3. The giant banyan tree in Lahaina
4. Wooden tiki carvings
5. Mother and daughter under the giant banyan tree


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