Monday, May 29, 2017

Retro Post for Memorial Day, 2017: Like Raising Fish (from my column "Makua o'o" written in Hawaii Island Journal, March 1-15, 2000)

Earlier this month, my Uncle Bill Amona celebrated his 95th birthday. His grand-daughter posted a photo of the family at The Golden Duck, an old favorite Chinese restaurant on King Street in Honolulu on the island of O'ahu. My ma, Uncle Bill's eldest sibling Helen Mokihana, would have been 100 years old in March of this year. Though this blog has parked quietly for several months, we are clearing and consolidating our lives here in Langley with our hearts and eyes on returning to Hawaii. There is plenty to do and lots of help will be needed to get from from here to there. Part of that process involves remembering that the journey of being makua o'o is a lifetime thing, innovation over time. While I was sorting old photographs and papers I came across this column. I wrote it for my nephew who was 15 years old in 2000. It is Memorial Day in the USA, and it seemed gently fitting to remember life with a sweetness that has little, or nothing, to do with war.
The artwork is new to original column, and is from an art blog described here: "I am an elementary art educator teaching in the Houston, Tx area at a Title 1 school for Kindergarten to fifth grade with 800 students. I teach 50 minute lessons, 6 classes a day, to 35 classes in a 6 day rotation. This blog is to help share with others all of the exciting activities and adventures my little artists and I explore together in my art classroom and the BIG world adventures we go on throughout the years I teach art!"

Like Raising Fish
By Yvonne Mokihana Calizar

The campus of Kapalama in Honolulu has changed since 1965 when my classmates and I graduated from the high school on the hill. The old Puna street entrance that winds along the narrow streets of Aleiwa Heights at the foothills of Kapalama is often closed to regular traffic heading into or from the grounds of Princess Bernice's place for "good and industrious men and women." but it's that entrance that is more familiar to me than the current road that leads more directly and quickly to the Kamehameha Schools. I don't get on campus much, and have only joined my old classmates at reunion once in 34 years. High school was many lifetimes past, and realizing how many times I have recreated myself since, makes me chuckle with a growing acceptance of my life.

Family history and continuity often bump into unexpected opportunities for reconnecting. My family and especially my two nephews are fresh sources of life that feed me like nothing else. Pondering what is precious happens whenever I'm with the two boys. Kawika will be 15 in a month. My mother loved this keiki and was Kawika's Tutu Lady exclusively. I see the lingering effects of my mother's hand in raising this teen-age boy. His eyes glint and track the goings-on in a room ... pulling in things familiar and questioning with scrutiny anything strange and untested. This is the boy who can talk faster than I can listen, but slows after eating a saimin-bowl of past shells and red sauce. Youth is spent racing into the future. The Makua o'o is content to step slowly into today.

Kawika is a gifted athlete and incredibly quick. "What did you do to Kawika when he was a little kid?" Pete shakes his head in amazement. "Chase him everywhere? He's so fast!" My brother David's broad, beautiful smile of appreciation fills his face as an answer. Aunties play a special role in the life of keiki boys. This aunty is coached across monkey-bars and can cheer with the best of the bleacher gang. It's a loving commitment to be available, staying open to be a learner, and keen to opportunity for teaching. So, I'm grateful every time I get to be Aunty. I show up.

Ma took naps on the floor with the tiny guy, guided his quick and eager hands when they held sharp knives and shared her heart with him without restriction. She understood how to help in the feeding of a spirit whose energy could pull in two different directions at once. That's what the fish, Pisces, does when he's out of sync with the flow. Two fish (for she was a Pisces as well) know what it feels like to swim against the currents.

As the sun's light cooled, my family piled from their commuting-basketball-practice-night-school-work-school routine to pick up a crockpot of food that's been cooking for them through the day. One night last week, the familiar blue-gray truck pulled in but instead of three heads I watched five dark-haired heads climb from the old faithful Nissan. "Wow, is that you Waikaloa, and Pat?" Two of Kawika's Maryknoll Spartans teammates were heading for an over-night gig at Nakini Street. The boys walked onto our bamboo-fronted porch, each one adding to my collection of hon (hugs and kisses) and "Hi, Aunty." My brother and I exchange the look and smiles that have moved between us for decades. The unnecessary us of many words shortened with heart-felt movements of a smile.

The rectangular kitchen table used so often to share tea and cookies o fresh-fried akule and rice was surrounded with boys. I could feel my parents smiling with us as we listened to the chatter and clank in the kitchen. The sound of clicking rice bowls and silverware from the cupboards and dish drain created a familiar and simple mele. A family poi bowl was always available and plentiful. The oval crockpot filled with pasta shells and tomato sauce is deep and fed the hungry youth like the fabled three fish and loaves. This is the kind of experience that eases my uncertain and impatient nature. The innocence and goodness that feeds a child grows when simple possibilities spring from a night when a crockpot of past becomes Aunty's truck stop along a busy highway of daily living.

Just before our houseful of family emptied, Waikaloa notice the glass bowl of pohaku li'ili'i hauau (tiny stones being born) sitting on a ledge in my office. The crowded heap of boy's heads and fast-talk slowed, and I poked my face through the hole in the wall between the kitchen and the living room. "Oh yeah, Waikaloa, you know. All those little stones are babies. Born in that bowl." As easy as shooting three points from outside, the young man said, "Just like raising fish." Yah. Just keep the bowl filled with water and Hawaiian salt. The pohaku, stones, know what to do from there.

In memory of 'ohana, ancestors behind us and in front of us. E ola makou.

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