For quite some time, I have had a dear affection for the word and more than a few inquisitive friends asking the above. Not only does it bring back memories of a simpler time (WARNING: tsunami of nostalgia approaching) and youthful innocence, but also that of one of my life's passions, sailing. Alihilani is Hawaiian for "the heavenly horizon". It was also the name of the 34' C&C sailboat aboard which I learned to sail when I was 16.
Two years later, I returned to the Alihilani for a bareboat charter with a herd of high school friends to celebrate the end of one era and the beginning of another. It was a great weekend full of reminiscing and trying diligently to score booze with a single fake ID (which was successful!). My friends were all headed to the ends of the earth (well, it was to me) to attend college: Texas A&M, OSU, Arkansas, me to OU, and my buddies Matt, Paul and Ryan were still stuck with another year of high school. It was far for us, being as it was no longer in our little town called Harrah. I would miss them. It's funny how we watch and read stories of how life goes on and pass them off as Hollywood moments, forgetting how true that statement rings in our own lives.
So as I embarked on a new journey to college, I kept the Alihilani as my mascot and personal historian. Even as I met new friends, found a second family with my fraternity brothers, and met a future wife, I drifted further and further away from Harrah. I still remain close to a couple of the old group and do manage to keep up with the rest through the grapevine and the occasional Christmas card.
The Alihilani is my holy grail of sacred memories and stands for more than just a boat or a weekend adventure. Alihilani will forever be part of me. It will forever keep my weekend trip, my multitude of college memories, and even those from my distant childhood: Visions of the brown treehouse, grandpa Sam's camper, my two best childhood friends, Caleb and David, my yellow Mongoose, the creek that ate my GI Joe hover craft, the brown Bronco, my Atari, the grave of my English Sheepdog, the coaster "bus", Johnson's Sports, the abandoned 1910 railroad tunnel, the blue bunk beds, the old MG, Foss Lake, the camp out to see Halley's comet, bus 15, Shelly Lockhart...all there for me to see.
But just as it was for Gordie Lachance, "...I will never again have friends like the one's I had when I was twelve." (Stephen King, from the Novella The Body and the Rob Reiner film Stand By Me). I learned many life lessons the day I read that book. Those lessons and more importantly the words still reside in me, thus forming the keel of my Alihilani. So now you know the name of my secret treasure box and that to the outside world she is just a sailboat. But her name says it all: though the heavenly horizon beyond is the goal, it is the journey that gets us there and the journey we shall never forget.
Footnote: I have since tried to charter her again, but the marina no longer charters from their private fleet and she was bought and relocated to an unknown location. She too is now only a memory on the heavenly horizon.