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An Ohana Christmas
In Hawaiian, the word ohana means family, and fortunately for me, this definition extends to friendships. Many of us who moved from the mainland to make our homes in this beautiful tropical state left behind family and close relationships. The tradeoff for living in a perfect climate and frolicking in warm, crystal blue water can sometimes mean spending special occasions and holidays without family.
When I first moved to Maui with my husband, we didn’t know anybody. This meant the possibility of spending the holiday season alone. I panicked. I’m not used to small, intimate Thanksgiving dinners. Gone were the traditions I grew up with. The year before the pandemic, my family hosted a dinner for forty-two guests! They smoked two turkeys, shared countless side dishes, and indulged in an abundance of desserts, including my mother’s famous Hershey Bar Cheesecake. Sure, traveling home was an option, but I didn’t want to negotiate crowded airplanes and airports. This was our new home, and I wanted to make it work.
Back on the mainland we used to host an annual Christmas party, but who would come to our party now? I hesitantly reached out to new neighbors, inviting them to our first Christmas party on Maui. I asked everyone to bring a pupu, an appetizer of their choice and was delighted when the neighbors not only agreed to celebrate with us but also showed up with the most elaborate dishes: Huli-huli chicken, kalua pork sliders, prime rib enchiladas. The list went on. One new friend explained that sharing food allowed her to express a sense of warmth and community. It was her way of connecting her past to the future.
That first year, we had so much food I ran out of counter space. From there, the parties have gotten even bigger. I can barely fit my new friends into our house. In Hawaii, it’s custom to remove one’s shoes before entering a home. Over the years, the slippers (flip-flops) have piled outside the front door, the trays of food have grown more numerous, and my heart has continued to fill with joy.
Because of Covid-19, we haven’t been able to celebrate together, but I’m anxiously waiting to welcome my new ohana into our home once again.
Once a huge pop star, Jake Wilder hasn’t written a hit song in over ten years. Stuck playing small-time venues where only his most dedicated fans remember him, a comeback seems improbable. But even those gigs are quickly drying up, and if Jake doesn’t do something soon, he’ll slide into permanent has-been oblivion. In a twist of fate, a record executive with a soft spot for retro artists, holds a competition in search of pop musicians to write a new Christmas classic.
Longing to become a serious and respected journalist, Mackenzie Stone scoffs at her latest assignment to write a profile about a washed-up pop singer. She would prefer to cover hard news rather than light stories assigned by her editor who seems unwilling to give her a chance. Determined to write a noteworthy story and at the same time prove herself, it’s up to Mackenzie to help inspire Jake to compose a Christmas classic.
As Jake struggles to overcome his anxieties and write a great song, Mackenzie digs for a story of substance. Together they find love while also discovering the true meaning of Christmas.
Andee Reilly was born and raised in Los Angeles. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of California, Riverside, Palm Desert. After many years of teaching writing and literature at California State University, Channel Islands, Andee moved to Maui to pursue her dream of teaching at the University of Hawaii, writing full-time, and surfing the beautiful waves of Hawaii. She is the author of SATISFACTION and A CHRISTMAS LOVE SONG.
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