Chewing Words

noun. verb. adjective. adverb…they're all tasty in my book

“‘Ey! Auntie!”

with 7 comments

I tolled the too-many bells of my 40th birthday in January of last year in Hawaii with a luau replete with 100+ family and friends from all over the globe and mayjah major ono kine grindz. I was there for 4 weeks, picking up and leaving my office. I wrote in my hardbound journal,

This year must have something in it that heralds joy. I still cringe at the thought of my office and dealing with clients who are irritating – my own definition. I don’t want that to define me.

I also left behind a husband who didn’t come to celebrate my milestone. The hurt of that should have been my light-bulb moment. But it wasn’t. Ever, as I have said before, the eternal optimist.

The crisis point…when (we) were not speaking and I wanted to run away and escape from my life…We are not happy, but there is a duty for each of us to change, to take responsibility for the things that are within the scope of our roles as husband and wife. I work in rounds of filling voids. I am always seeking — SOMETHING. Feeling validated, that elusive chimera. Hanging on to a dream of the unattainable; perhaps unsustainable is a better word.

Hele On Hula Auntie

Going back to Hawai’i to bring in my 40th year took us to our roots. The Aunties all came out in droves. Music, hula, food. 40 was just that; four decades that we celebrated on the Big Island where my Daddy grew up and where he met my mom when she left the mainland to go to college at University of Hawai’i.

I went there too, over 20 years ago now. An odd experiment at that time in books and covers. My cover, for the first time in my life, looked like most everyone else’s around me. On campus, if I stood in a group, I wasn’t the odd woman out amidst my blond-haired, blue-eyed friends. My hapa features weren’t so out of place. But  as soon as I opened my mouth, out popped the haole. People did double-takes. Locals stopped mid-sentence when I spoke to them. “Eh, you one haole, ah?” It didn’t take me too long to figure out that they were asking me if I was a white girl. At home no one ever quite knew what to make of me, either; I sounded and dressed like everyone else, but I looked…different. “What are you?”  What am I? Uhm, a girl. “No, I mean, are you Mexican? You don’t look Mexican. What are you?!” White, Hawaiian and a little sprinkling of Chinese. Going to school in Hawaii, it was the same all over again, just turned inside-out. My pages or my cover, something was always just a tad off.

Twenty years, though, smoothed over much of that. I didn’t care anymore. My Aunties were all there, in their muumuus and leis, plumeria behind their ears, ukuleles in hand. They cooked for me. They played for me. They danced for me. My cousins were there too, with their kids. They all came up to me, hugs and kisses and leis. And that’s when it happened. That’s when I realized I was already on the other side of something that I didn’t even realize I had climbed over. Because that’s when all the kids called me Auntie. Horrors!

I was an AUNTIE! Are these moments universal? The ones that are really not that big of a deal, but which still fall like Newton’s apple and bonk you on the head? Maybe when someone calls you ma’am, or you’re suddenly invisible in the grocery store aisle. You manage to side step the big stuff, like your husband choosing to stay home from the family vacation and from celebrating your big four-oh, only to have your whole existence recodified by one shrill, little voice saying, “‘Ey! Auntie! Happy Birthday!”

Auntie. Hmm. I don’t even know how to hula and tuning a ukulele is beyond me. But now I have something to look forward to. When they have their 40th birthday, I can sit back and drink a beer, comfy in my muumuu, leis piled on my neck, smacking my lips as I watch the look on their faces as they get called “Auntie” for the very first time.

2/363: PostADay

(Daddy got out his ukulele and jammed at the luau, but I don’t have any video of it, so I’ll share some “Mach 4” from Hawaiian ukulele maestro Kalei Gamiao. Did you know you could do that with a ukulele? I sure as shootin’ didn’t.)

Written by cr8df8

January 2, 2011 at 10:22 pm

7 Responses

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  1. What a wonderful post and what a great homage to your family. So many of us (myself included) live in cultures that are light years away from where our parents were born. I think they brought the miles with them in their suitcases, even though we may believe otherwise. Welcome to 40.


    January 5, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    • Now in my 40s I am able to appreciate, so much more than I could before, the gift of having a heritage I can “go back to.” And to be able to have my daughter be part of that as well. Her grandpa (my daddy), would play his ukulele for her when he was trying to get her to take a nap. He’s been her primary daycare since she was 6 months old. I love that she will never forget him, that she will always have that piece of her family to carry in her heart.


      January 5, 2011 at 8:12 pm

  2. Life is so full of opposing experiences and emotions. When they happen simultaneously, though, that’s when we’re forced into a new skin. If we’re lucky, we never stop growing. You sound as though you’re doing okay. I hope so. And for what it’s worth, I think you’re a wonderful writer.


    January 4, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    • Forcing one’s self into a new skin is definitely a little bit uncomfortable. And I think I’ll be ok! It’s been a rough ride. And I can’t say I like any of it. But it really is just a blip in the scheme of things, isn’t it?

      And thank you so much! There are so many wonderful writers out there, that barring any sort of published gig, one can hope there’s a little bit of pleasure derived from the reading of one’s words. I get so much from the people I read.


      January 5, 2011 at 4:41 am

  3. Oh, and glad you liked the ukulele link. Kalei is an AMAZING player.


    January 3, 2011 at 8:48 am

  4. As I have “aged”…ahem…I have come to appreciate the island, specifically the Big Island of Hawai’i, more and more. The people, the food, the culture…because they are where I come from. I never lived there other than a short stint in college, but I have been able to go back and spend time with my family for weeks at a time, which is lovely. I need to figure out how to take off and stay there for about 6 months and write.

    And lots of non-US citizens really like Hawaii too! :)


    January 3, 2011 at 8:46 am

  5. hey hawaii-bound woman supported by aunties – plumeria behind their ears, ukuleles in hand, cooking, playing – now I know, why so many US-citizens love hawaii (obama too?) – thanks for the ukulele youtube link – wonderful mood of life!
    your frizzguitar


    January 2, 2011 at 11:35 pm

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