Hau`oli Lā Hānau
The story I’ve been told is this: when my paternal grandmother left her second husband, she and my father packed up their belongings and boarded a plane for Japan. Since it was the late 60’s, there was a layover in Honolulu to refuel. The stop was probably no more than a few hours, but my grandmother (being the stubborn person that she was), demanded to get off the plane to stretch her legs.
Long story short, she loved Hawai’i so much that she was living there permanently within months after going back to Akita.
This is how I came to have my “Grandma in Hawai’i.”
She gave me my first ukulele when I was three. She made an excellent reason to make the trip to Hawai’i every couple of years for summer vacation. She was the only one who ever called me by my middle name on a regular basis (which is also my Japanese name). She would send me letters that were always written on her typewriter and were finished off with an elaborate signature. And she only gave and accepted gifts from Macy’s, Liberty House, and Neiman Marcus.
Today would have been her ninetieth birthday. I wish I knew more about her, but sadly she was the black sheep of a very traditional Japanese family (i.e. never going to find out anything before 1960), and my dad doesn’t really like to talk about his past. The little bits and pieces I do know come from miscellaneous pictures and a cardboard box of her belongings. My memories of her are simply made up of her long hair, shopping excursions at Liberty House, and remembering to respond to my seldom used Japanese name.
Hawai’i is a place full of memories for me, and a good majority of them include my grandmother. She’s been gone for almost fifteen years, but there’s a tiny part of me that still expects to meet up with her at the Ala Moana Center for another shopping date.