Thanksgiving Afterglow

Friday, November 23, 2001
Cool and windy Big Bear

Greetings of the Season,

“Family is the glue that holds life together.”
~ Shay Bintliff

Twenty two years ago, we arrived in California not knowing a soul here. Strangers in a strange land.

That fall, we were Thanksgiving orphans. DH and I went out for Thanksgiving dinner at the Mission Inn Restaurant, out of town in  Riverside. Back then, freshly from Hawai`i where everything is close, Riverside seemed far, faraway.  

A few months later, DH's friend from childhood, Shigs, called.  They grew up together as Boy Scouts, church and high school Key Club members and fellow surfers in Hilo, but lost touch when Shigs went off to college on O`ahu. He'd heard from his mother that we were up here.  And as it turns out, he was first cousins with my classmate in Pahoa, Roy.

As Fate would have it, they lived a mere ten minutes from us. He invited us over to dinner that weekend, and we met his wife, Sue, a college coed from Florida he'd met when they were at the University of Hawai`i and married when he moved out to California for work, and their little girl, Samara, age 3, and their baby girl, Alana S, less than a year old.  

The rest, as they say, is history...

"Family isn't always what you're born with,
sometimes it's the people you find, 
sometimes it's the people who find you."

~ Aunty D

We became fast friends, and within a year, DH and I were Samara's and Alana S' godparents. Sue herself lost a parent as a little girl and was hanai'd (adopted) and raised by Mama D, her mother's friend, in Florida. I am Aunty D to Samara and Alana S.  Some things are just meant to be.

“Pure coincidence is a rare commodity.” 
~ Peter Fleming

Thereafter, we were no longer holiday orphans, and we spent many Christmases with Shigs, Sue, Samara and Alana S ... in Yorba Linda ...and Highlands Ranch, Colorado ...and Bakersfield in central California ...and Danville in Northern California.  

Wherever Shigs' company promoted and transferred him, our glue kept us bound tight. We lived the postal creed and nothing deterred us from getting together as a family: 

"Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, 
nor gloom of night stayed us."

>> Photo of Shigs, Sue, Samara, and Alana S 
Bakersfield, California.

Not only were we adopted as honorary parents -- hanai-an style as we say in Hawai`i -- we were adopted into an extended family of Hawai`i expatriates living up and down the coast of Southern California, from the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles to Orange County, and all the way down to San Diego County.



'ohana [pronounced: oh hah' nah]: 
Family, relative, kin group; related. 

The term 'ohana comes from the kalo (taro) plant itself.
When one talks about the parts of the kalo plant,
the corm of the kalo is called the “oha,"
the part of the plant used to feed one's `ohana

Ever since, with home being Hawai`i and so far away for all of us, this family --  `ohana -- has been gathering for the major holidays.  

Growing up in Hawai`i, we lived in a warm and affectionate world. In Hawai`i the family consists of the usual blood relatives, but also those people not blood-related who were loved or who chose to participate in cooperative actions were considered part of the `ohana, or extended family. 

Asian or Hawaiian or both, we grew up very aware of ourselves as members of a larger `ohana, as compared to the individualistic, cocooning tendencies on the mainland. 

And that is why we from Hawai`i have so many aunties, uncles, and cousins.

>> Photo of The Hawai`i - California `Ohana 
Big Bear, 1995

In keeping with The Aloha Spirit -- a friendliness, a caring, a willingness to be helpful and hospitable -- and our close island bonds, we gather to enjoy each other's company and maintain our Asian and Hawaiian cultural roots.

“An unquestioning friendship and desire to share, developed within the `ohana but extended to all persons of good will, aloha has been variously defined as affection, compassion, mercy, sympathy, civility, kindness and charity. It is given without restraint or ulterior motive, and it is expressed with a geniality which springs from one who is secure in his society and his environment.”   ~ Herb Kane

Over the years, our original `ohana of  about 20 has grown with the addition of visiting relatives and friends, other "orphans," in-laws, mates, and the keiki of the third generation. Here's a color-coded legend to help keep the generations straight:

Red: 1st generation on the Mainland --  
da "Aunties" and "Uncles"

Blue: 2nd generation, the cousins -- 
"da cuzzes"

Green: 3rd generation, children of the cousins -- "da keiki"

* da = the; in Hawaiian pidgin, we drop our aitches and "t" becomes "d".

Whenever Grandma Y (Aunty Blanche's and Aunty Faith's mother) joins us from O`ahu, our family spans not three, but four generations!


Yesterday, by noon, we were packed and ready to hit the road to Escondido, California, just north of San Diego.  DH's Hawaiian potato salad, bottles of wine and packs of beer were packed into the ice chest then loaded into the truck with a pan of char siu (Chinese barbecued pork) for the pupu (appetizer) table.

O and Freddy B jumped into the back seat, and we slowly made our way down the freeway. And I mean slo-o-o-o-wly.  Everyone, it seemed, was on the road at the same time on the way to their Thanksgiving dinners.  We literally crawled our way to the FasTrak toll lanes, which immediately loosened up the gridlock. The best $3.15 toll ever paid to the road troll made for smooth sailin'...

Over the river and through the woods to Uncle Clif's and Aunty Blanche's  we go...heigh ho, heigh ho.



At 2:30 pm, just a half hour later than anticipated, we arrived at Uncle Clif's and Aunty Blanche's sprawling ranch house located in a bucolic valley -- horse country with wide open spaces with avocado farms on each side. 

Uncle Clif (Shig's older brother) greeted us with hugs. He has been busy this year!  The entry of their home has been redesigned with a most aesthetic touch. With a gated front entry, it now sports a distinctly Asian look with tasteful Feng Shui influences in its architectural and landscaping details. 

Inside, Samara (our goddaughter, now 25 and a professional designer/artist) and Jonathan (her tall, dark, and handsome businessman husband -- and our adored godson-in-law --  with El Salvador roots), Alana S (our goddaughter, now 22 and a bio-technologist, i.e., a professional pipetter), cousin Judy (businesswoman with a thriving business) and Lauren (zee money machine entrepreneur with French roots),  cousins Cassie (violin-playing doctoral candidate at Berkeley), Orin (hard-working accountant, who pulled his hand ligaments, bench-pressing. Ouch!), Iain (the newest doctor and book author), and Kisa (health care provider and proud aunty of Kyle) were gathered around the pupu table. We were delightfully surprised to see that the happy-and-in-love newlyweds, cousin Shannon (the ravishing SPN producer bride) and Matthew (the handsome Irish-Catholic groom with New England roots, also an ESPN producer), were home for Thanksgiving from back East. 

Aunty Sue (Hawaiiana collector),  Blanche's sister school nurse Aunty Faith and retired engineer Uncle LeRoy (doting grandparents of the 1st member of the 3rd generation, Kyle), financial planner Aunty Aileen and retired Jack-of-all-trades Uncle Eddie (father and mother of the bride and new in-laws of Matt) and cousin Steve (businessman and new homeowner who loves his job) were outside admiring more of Clif's remodeling: The black bottom pool is now a self-sustaining grotto.  

We set up O and Freddy B's portable wire pen on the terrace where they could keep an eye on us. Rags, the cockapoo and house boss, came by to welcome them with hello sniffs.

Within minutes, everyone else arrived, including retired, doting grandparents, Uncle Larry and  Aunty Bobbie and cousins Brian, Kent, Loreen (doting eye doc uncle, accountant father and dental hygienist-to-be mother of the first member of the 3rd generation, Kyle) and Kyle himself, the first member of the 3rd generation and the apple of everyone's eye), and attorney Aunty Becky, professor Uncle Allan, and video skate-boarding wonder, cousin Allan, Jr

The pupu (appetizer) table was laden with "local" Hawaiian food: sashimi on a bed of shredded daikon (radish) with mounds of wasabi; boiled peanuts and soybeans, juicy and tasty clams, chips and dip, fruit salad, pickled scallions, and char siu slices.  Island style, we self-served the pupu on small plates, eating with fingers and/or chopsticks, and washing them down with cold beer or refreshing fruit punch.

With enthusiastic hugs and hearty greetings, the warmth of the gathering instantlyh kicked up a few degrees.  The house was teeming with family, abuzz with conversation and filled with laughter and enthusiastic sharing, i.e., "talking story," as we say in Hawai`i.

Never mind that this same group got together, eating and dancing this past summer at cousin Shannon's elegant Newport Beach wedding to Matthew, or that we got together again for more fun and frolic in September for keiki Kyle's first year baby lu`au.  

Never mind our gatherings with Aunty Sue, Samara and Jonathan,  Alana S and Jeremy for our introduction to  Disney California Adventure and dinner at the Mondavi Restaurant in July, and again, when they took us out to dinner for our birthdays at the elegant Napa Rose at the Disney California Grand Hotel in September.  

When we get together, we GET TOGETHER like long-lost family members.

Catching up with Alana S's life, I was given the best gift from her. She has been working as a bio-technician for two months, and now she finds herself appreciating and missing school. She'd like to go to graduate school, she says, so she may teach at the college level.  She'll be following her Uncle T's (known in this journal as DH) footsteps.  And yes, Alana S, the vacations are great.

But first, she'd like to go to teach English in Japan. This is her chance to go out and see the world before she settles into graduate school. I wholeheartedly encouraged her.

While I was out on the terrace checking in on O and Freddy B, Jonathan, my godson-in-law, came out to join me, and we had a heart-to-heart chat. When I shared how happy I was to hear that Alana was going back to school, he wistfully told me about a school friend who is now attending law school at Loyola Marymount. I encouraged him to pursue his dreams, to follow his heart. 

"Follow your bliss 
and doors will open where there were no doors." 
~Joseph Campbell

With Aunty Sue, his mother-in-law, we will be his and Samara's safety net, just as our parents were for us when we were in school.  We were psychologically emboldened, knowing that if we fell short, they were there to catch us before we ever fell into an abyss of impoverishment.

We are 'ohana, and we kokua (help out) each other. We malama (take care) of each other. That's the Hawaiian way.


behold our family here gathered. 
We thank Thee for this place in which we dwell; 
for the love that unites us; 
for the peace accorded to us this day;
 for the hope with which we expect the morning;
 for the health, the work, the food, 
and the bright skies that make our lives delightful; 
and for our friends in all parts of the world. 
~ Robert Louis Stevenson
written in the 1880s for a Hawaiian Thanksgiving feast

With lots of island hospitality and generosity, Aunty Blanche and Uncle Clif served up a beautiful sit-down Thanksgiving dinner with table cloths and festive centerpieces. The menu, with the exception of DH's island potato salad, was All-American: golden roasted turkey: scrumptious stuffing; cranberry sauce; warm, creamy mashed potatoes; sweet potatoes; hot vegetables and fresh green salad.  Served on big plates, the meal was devoured with traditional knives and forks. We are bi-cultural ;-).

Every cousin in the second generation is now of age (!). The wines -- Shiraz, Cabernet, Merlot --  flowed freely. Aunty Sue introduced me to a buttery Chardonnay by Kunde Winery. Mm-mmm!  

We remembered Uncle Wayne -- Shigs, as we knew him, before his unexpected passing eleven years ago when he was only 40 -- and his yen for new and fast cars.



Let the games begin!

After dinner, the games began. You will never meet a more fun and spirited group than this family. Games are a major tradition at our gatherings, and much creativity, foreplanning and organization go into them. Being in charge of the games is a major responsibility, and this year, Aunties Faith and Sue,  cousins Samara and Alana, combined forces.

There are no party poopers or shrinking violets in this family, only good sports with lots of healthy competitiveness. We take our games seriously, especially because the prizes are good stuff. No junky prizes. 

We are fun-loving and ultimate hams with no shame. 

Game 1:  Aunty Faith lead us in a version of the Cranium game's Play Doh competition. We were divided into teams of four and given a can of Play Doh. One member on each team is given a word to mold.  The other team members must guess the word.  The winner runs up to see the next word.  The first to get all ten words win.  

Our team, composed of Uncle Larry, Aunty Sue, cousin Iain and me, were doing great until I got stuck on the word "stork"  and we came in second.  The winning team with cousin Kisa at the helm was a deserving one; their figures were absolute works of art:  haku lei, maile, stork, spider, toilet, moth, ear, musubi.  

Game 2: The games chairwomen, Sue, Samara and Alana S, took over. A famous person's name was taped to each person's back. The object is to guess the famous person's name on your back by only asking questions that could be answered with a Yes or a No. The first to do so won. The cacophony and confusion of milling competitors pointing to their backs and asking questions was deafening and hilarious. 

Uncle T (DH) was Harrison Ford and I, Mother Teresa. DH was clueless, but I was getting veddy warm: a woman, dead, religious, maybe a saint.  Cousin Orin, who was Michael Jordan, however, soundly beat me to the win.

Game 3:  Everyone listed two of their likes and two of their dislikes on an index card. The object was to identify to whom each set belonged to as cousin Alana read them aloud. The one who identified the most correctly won. Aunty Blanche knows us well and handily won.  

I love learning what other people's favorites -- joys in life -- are [see journal entries: Favorites I and Favorites 2] and I madly scribbled the following to list them here for posterity:


Aunty Bobbie:  food and travel
Aunty Aileen: Chinese and Mexican food
Aunty Becky:  chocolate and art
Uncle T (DH):  red wine and Aunty D (that would be me)
Uncle Larry: cooking and fishing
Judy: nonsmokers and cats
Matthew: golf and movies
Jonathan: pizza and TV
Uncle Clif: friends and *
Cassie: * and backpacking
Uncle Eddie: Yanni music and eating
Aunty Faith: talking and sleep
Loren: * and sleep
Brian: fishing and vacations
Samara: tall, dark men and purple
Iain: computers and reading
Orin: eating and sleeping
Aunty Blanche: food and days with no schedules
Shannon: media, music and good meal
Loreen: rubber shrimp scampi and sleeping in
Kisa: thick hair and dependable people
Kent: gardening (lawnmowing), sports and collecting
Aunty D (me):  purple and dogs
Uncle LeRoy: tennis and fishing
Steven: Japanese shrimp and BBQ
*  I couldn't read my chicken scratch notes...too much wine, you think?


Uncle T (DH): internal gas and liver
Aunty D (me): liver and vomit
Loreen: dark and scary movies
Shannon: being cold, uncleanliness
Aunty Blanche: dishonesty and menudo
Orin: working and waiting
Aunty Aileen: cold bed and being cold
Brian: traffic and Brussel sprouts
Iain: reality TV and no cash flow

Game 4: The game finale was an absolute riot!  We were randomly divided into two teams; each team then picked members who best fit certain characteristics.

Sweet and adorable:  Cassie and Aunty D (me).  (Baby Bears)
Maternal and nurturing:  Matthew and Shannon. (Mama Bears)
Paternal and a leader-type: Uncle Clif and Uncle Eddie (Papa Bears)
Lazy:  Orin and Steve (Beds)
Manly:  (Woodsmen)
Stable and dependable:  Aunty Blanche and Aunty Bobbie. (Houses)
* subject to error, as I was so busy being dressed!

The characters then picked partners whose job was to dress the characters with a list of items in a specific order, with every mention of our character in a story read by Alana S. The challenge was to find the items as quickly as possible, no easy task as they were in a gigantic jumble in the middle of the room. 

(Aunty Sue must have scoured EVERY thrift store in her vicinity for this plethora of items!)

By the end of the story, Uncle Larry, my partner, had me dressed from top to bottom as Baby Bear.  I was wearing pajama bottoms with a diaper pinned over it, a bib, a bonnet, and a pair of booties, holding on to a pacifier and a teddybear.  Yup, you got it, looking...yes, sweet and adorable.  And very silly. Dah, dah goo, goo.

I don't know which team won, but it didn't matter, we were all  laughing hysterically, having so much fun. Every character was bizarrely dressed, but I think newlyweds cousin Shannon and Matthew, dressed as the same character, Mama Bear, in black wigs, ugly long dresses and spike heels deserved a shared prize for being the most howlingly funny.  What a study in striking contrast from their wedding formals this summer!  As I said, this group has no hilahila (shyness, embarassment) and Matthew passed muster with ease.

Win or lose, we were each awarded a prize that was handcrafted by Aunty Bobbie: an edible turkey wrapped in a cellophane bag, tied up with a pert yellow ribbon, each ingeniously and lovingly made with a striped cookie for a turkey tail, a chocolate kiss for feet, a caramel square for a body, and a candy corn for a beaked head.  Adorable and so clever!

Hmm, "no wondah" cousin Kisa's team won the Play Doh competition -- talented Aunty Bobbie was on their team!



We calmed down with mugs of caffeinated coffee for the road and dessert -- pumpkin pie, of course. We played with the electronic toys: PlayStation skateboarding (Allan Jr. is a natural!), watched Uncle Allan's Charlotte Church DVD, and Iain, our newest doctor and computer whiz, showed us his new book -- soon to be a bestseller -- on his brand new Mac Powerbook, flat screen monitor and rollerball mouse (drool!)

The hours flew by, and soon it was time to pack up and head home. Everyone helped with the clean-up. Many hands made light work.

Island-style, everyone was given a plate of turkey with all the trimmings to take home. We hit the road at 10:30 and drove up to the cabin, arriving here at 12:30 this morning.  Thank goodness we forgot to turn down the thermostat last Sunday when we left, because the house was warm and cozy. Some mistakes are meant to be.

I was dreading a cold house, and worse, a cold bed.  Instead, within minutes, I was snug, warm and safe in bed ge with DH, O and Freddy B.  Smiling, I reflected on the day and looked forward to Christmas at cousins Kent's and Loreen's and keiki Kyle's and then New Year's Day at our house, down the hill, when twice again our hanai (adopted) family will share the treasures of food, friendship and fellowship. 

I love my island family. I prayed that all strangers in strange lands might find their adoptive families.

I fell asleep aglow with gratitude.  

Hau`oli Lâ Ho`omaika`i
Say Happy Thanksgiving  in Hawaiian

Thanksgiving Menu in Hawaiian

Bing Cherry Jello Mold 
with Coca Cola as the secret ingredient

Hawaiian Fruit Crumble
old family favorite, especially for Thanksgiving

Aloha Bread & Macadamia Stuffing
with Chinese Sausage and Pineapple

Honolulu Advertiser's Holiday Pupu Recipe Contest Winners

"Life is a Gift."

Author Unknown
aka Aunty D

P.S.  If you would like to share a portion of yourself  with words, in response to this journal entry,  you may do it here.  

 "The only gift is a portion of thyself..."
Ralph Waldo Emerson


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This web journal was created on a September Morn, 
September 29, 2001
September Morn © 2001