At last, I'm zooming in on my dream. The island appears through the window just as the sun begins its descent. Tropical paradise is within my reach.

Back up 25 years: With the birth of my daughter, my husband and I had chosen a dreamy Hawaiian name. It was chosen with karmic intentions, a name from paradise, and a name full of warm sun, free breezes . . . and of the ocean. We hoped the name would be a talisman for a good life, and we agreed the name was as beautiful as she was - Laina. I hoped one day I would be lucky enough to visit the island that carries the exotic name.

It was a long wait, while life notched chips in my dreams. I divorced, restructured, and lived alone after my daughter left the nest.

Now, with a new partner in my life, we watched together from the window of the plane while circling the island of Oahu. Minutes later, landing and bracing with the backward thrust of the engines, I gasped - off in the distance I saw a brilliant double rainbow arching over a mountain of rock.

"Wow - grand beauty!" I said to myself.

That night, as we traveled over dark narrow roads toward our lodgings, I wondered what we'd see on a moonless night. Arriving in our room, weary from our long travels, I immediately pulled open the large sliding-glass doors leading to the balcony. Boom! Boom! Boom! Wave after wave pounded the beach. Shhhhh the palm trees whispered in return with their swinging leaves. I felt as if I was hearing the island breathe - Haaaaaaa.

Holding tight to the railing, we descended into an island trance. Giant-size lights lit the white-capped waves cascading onto shore, making it possible to view the swirl and pitch of each. Another bonus was the fragrant air whipping into our room: salt, hibiscus, and what I would soon learn was a flower called pink lokelani, or cottage rose, known for its sweet fragrance.

The week passed in a blur of days washed with delights: Each beach was blessed with individual characteristics. By day we traveled serpentine roads, stopping at farms to sample ripe, luscious pineapples, bananas, and papaya. Hilled botanical gardens led to waterfalls, kayaking led to sea turtles munching on sea algae. One bountiful jungle filled with tall trees dropped light shells on our heads as if giving us a Hawaiian baptism. We communed with banyan trees, hiked numerous trails, and watched whales blow spouts way out in the wild Pacific Ocean. Even on our hotel grounds, the bushes offered flowers in bright roses, oranges, and yellows.

And when we desired a taste of some local lore, the surfer dudes happily obliged. They came ashore carrying their long boards on their wide muscled shoulders, hero water-tamers. Rough winter waves, we learned, are only for the professionals. But as we sleepily lounged in the hot tub, we listened to the water cowboys comment on the day's ride. "Man, it is a checkerboard out there today! You got to find the sweet spot!"

We spent most evenings observing the dudes do battle or watching with dropped jaws as fire dancers twisted and threw rods of fire to Hawaiian tunes.

It wasn't till the last day of our stay that karma found me - just like the song "Bali Hai." With our departure imminent, I made the slow walk across the open-air lobby with the views of the ocean. On the far side, I noticed a group of people gathered around an ageless Hawaiian woman. I moved closer. Her wispy gray hair was pulled into a bun, and she wore simple straw hat. She smiled a mother's welcome to me.

Then she paused, holding her ukulele at an angle. Now I was an interloper, eavesdropping, but I couldn't draw away. I was mesmerized by the music and her voice, which was low and melodious. She motioned with one hand for me to come and sit. I protested, "I have to leave soon, but I love your music."

She answered with words I will not forget,

"Ah, Honey Girl . . . it's OK . . . sit with Mama for a while."

She smiled and tapped her finger to the seat beside her.

So I did. I sat right next to her, and her smile became even more magnetic. She grasped her ukulele like a baby in her small hands and began to play a simple song. I nodded as she sang, "If you get in trouble, we will serenade you."

Then she eyed me with a questioning look. I must have looked sad. In her wise woman voice, she said, "It's OK, Honey Girl."

This was my farewell to an island dream. I was blessed. It was similar to the blessing I had bestowed on my newborn daughter. My heart warmed, I went home with my own special name - Honey Girl.

Lisa Loeb writes from Berwyn.
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