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Kermet Apio's Laugh Corner

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May 2006

Baby Lu`au

Last month my son had his 1st birthday, a day he celebrated by loudly proclaiming “Ba ba!” The 1st birthday is an important occasion in Hawaiian culture. It is for me as well because, quite frankly, I’ve kept a human being alive for a year. I’ve had screen saver fish die. It is a tradition to have a luau for the baby and I am not one to break tradition, even if the airfares totaled in the $1800 range ($1815 if you pay for the airline frozen sandwich or raisin box). So with SPF 50 in hand for the kids, we headed to Hawaii for the big event.

A host of relatives - under the leadership of my mother – helped plan the party’s many details. If I had to plan the party from Seattle it would be a bucket of Zippy’s chili and a picnic table at Waimanalo beach.

The most valuable person on the day of the luau is, by far, the cousin that owns the truck. He may be far from your favorite cousin but, as I said, he owns a truck. Forget that time at the beach when he snuck up behind you and pulled down your shorts in front of a girls’ paddling team. Forget the time he broke up a dinner party when he came in and launched into a drunken rendition of his ‘the problem with white people’ speech. Today he is family, and we need him to get the propane tanks, coolers, and chaffing dishes to the hall.

A lot of effort goes into the baby luau despite the fact that the baby has absolutely no clue what is going on. I’m pretty sure my son’s inner dialogue was along these lines:

“Who the hell are these people?…If one more person touches my cheeks, I swear I’ll drool on their wristwatch…Okay, so you light sticks on fire, nobody tells me what to do, then you all stare at me. Throw me a bone here people, I’m only a year old!…Excuse me, person who looks like my Dad, have you seen my Dad?…Ummm, it’s about three hours past naptime and I can’t rub my eyes any harder. Anyone? Hello?…Hey, any chance of me getting some of that stuff you call ‘cake’?…Man, a soiled diaper, 150 people and not one of them with a handi-wipe. Sure is great to be 1.”

One important thing to know about the baby luau (or any family luau for that matter) is how much food to have. The basic equation is this: f= p x 25 + 4. The amount of food (f) is equaled to the number of people expected (p) times 25 and add four. So if there are about 150 people (which there were), we should have enough food for 3,754 people. This number makes sure there is food for the people who didn’t R.S.V.P., the people who want seconds, and a small third world country.

I don’t know how we got away with it but we actually had an alcohol free party. A few years ago that sentence would elicit huge amounts of laughter from my family. It wasn’t a moral thing but a financial thing. Alcohol is much more expensive than gallon jugs of Malolo syrup and water. If there was alcohol at the party, this column would have been a lot easier. There would have been the one relative telling everybody how much he loves them, the one relative telling everybody how much he hates them, and the one relative who does the annual ‘peeling of the tires’ out of the parking lot.

But the baby luau is for the kids. My cousin set up a bunch of games and prizes for the keiki. Each child (about 40 of them) walked away with four or five prizes. 180 toys at a total of about $17. Which proves that children don’t care about the value of things as long as they’re colorful, shiny, and can hurt a sibling. The kids also basked in the joy of sugar. Cake, ice cream, slush, and the aforementioned Malolo fruit punch were available in abundance to any kid who knew how to work the machines. The kids came to the party as sweet and excited children. But they left as ADHD ferrets hopped up on triple espresso. Sorry parents, but you did this to us at your kid’s party. It’s my rite of passage.

My family is awesome at throwing a luau. They have a lot of experience. Seems like every year somebody is getting married, turning a year old, graduating, or getting paroled. From emptying garbage bags to cooking rice to setting up and putting away tables and chairs, everything gets done every time. It was amazing that day when I realized there were three generations of family working together for this party. It is my family at their best. Working so hard not for money or glory but purely to celebrate the life of my boy. I can’t thank them enough. And they know that if they needed me I would be there at a Waimanalo picnic table, Zippy’s chili in hand.

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