My father’s people call me Hapa Haoli. The words are Hawaiian; Hapa, meaning half, and Haoli meaning, white or mainlander. My mother is a beautiful Georgia Peach with the hair and freckles of the Irish and my dad is Hawaiian with salt water in his veins and sand in his hair. Both cultures are so rich with family tradition. So, you could say that I am a southern transplanted Hawaiian with a strong sense of family.
I am a southerner by heart, by speech, and by eats. There is nothing about the south I don’t like. From cornbread to grits and from hundred degree weather to 100 percent humidity. I have a drawl, I say ya’ll and a cook with so much ham hock and butter my vegetables are unhealthy. I say ma’am and sir and I can tell you, with pretty good accuracy, where yonder is. I love family reunions, weddings at the bride’s Grandma’s house, and azaleas in the springtime. I love the way southern people don’t move to fast, the way we take the time to say hello and smile. The way we take things easy – we really have no choice – most of the time it is too hot to do anything fast. Most of the colleges aren’t as big, but the football is great. Most of the doctor’s aren’t as rich, but he knows my history without my chart. My history, my momma’s, my two sisters my aunt, our neighbor – you get the point. I wouldn’t give up my Southern roots for all the tea in China – because we drink ours sweet and I don’t think they do.
I am Hawaiian by birth. My father comes from a family whose tree is planted firmly in the sands that are Hawaii. My father makes it a point to impress upon us the importance of the Hawaiian blood. Its traditions are rich and family important. I don’t have any Hawaiian friends. They are all family. They are not Mr. and Mrs. They are Auntie and Uncle.
In Hawaii, you are of the land or you are a visitor. There is no place in a Hawaiian’s heart for disrespect of the islands. The land is sacred. It is a part of the history of the people and as such has embedded upon its children the love and respect due to an honored parent. My father has done his best to keep traditions alive. It has been hard since we live so far away, but he has done well. My sisters and I can cook some of the more common dishes such as luau luau and lomi salmon, and we all dance the hula. The distance between the place I was born and the place I was raised is great, but they are both home.
My family is my rock. I believe that even without oxygen, my family could sustain me. The people in my tree define who I am. My mother has given me the courage to withstand all things. She has taught me the meaning of integrity and perseverance. She showed me how wisdom was important and that taking a stand was cool. She gave me the permission to open my mouth in protest as long as I remember that everyone deserves respect. My father gave me the backbone to follow through. He taught me that who you are is shown more by what you do than what you say, who you know or what you have. Together they showed me that nothing is more important than waking up every morning knowing you were loved unconditionally. I now have my own children to love unconditionally.
My two oldest girls are like sun up and sun down – both beautiful and glorious yet on completely opposite ends of the earth. My two babies are still new and 11 months apart. Yet they have already given me more than I could ever imagine. They feed me life. As much as parents are supposed to teach their children, they have taught me more. They have showed me that most answers are simple and most hurts can be cured by a hug and an ice cream. I now know that folded clothes, if left unattended for a second, will need to be folded again and dirt has radar. I have also learned that their best chance of becoming wonderful adults involves being around wonderful adults. In this they have shown me the kind of person I strive to be.
And my husband, the wonderful father of these children. He is my perfect complement. We differ from some of the married people we know in that we actually like each other. Forget the fact that we are married – we are best friends. He thinks I am great. I know it is because of him.
I have the best friends. They are like a bouquet of flowers – each different and colorful and bringing incredible life into my world. I love them dearly. They are more than friends, they are fellow journeyers. They walk with me down my life’s path and allow me to experience theirs.
My personality evolves everyday. With each new experience my repertoire changes. I grow and learn and increase myself. But who I am, where I am from
and the things I hold important are as certain as Georgia Heat, Hawaiian Surf and the roots that have been nurtured by each.