of the Season,
“Family is the glue that holds life
~ 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.
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
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,
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,
"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, her mother's friend, in Florida. I am Aunty to Samara and Alana
S. Some things are just meant to be.
“Pure coincidence is a rare
~ Peter Fleming
Thereafter, we were no longer holiday
orphans, and we spent many Christmases with Shigs,
and Alana S ... in Yorba Linda ...and
Highlands Ranch, Colorado ...and Bakersfield in central California
...and Danville in Northern California.
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."
of Shigs, Sue, Samara,
and Alana S
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.
[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
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.
is why we from Hawai`i have so many aunties, uncles, and cousins.
of The Hawai`i -
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
“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
1st generation on the Mainland --
da "Aunties" and
Blue: 2nd generation, the cousins --
Green: 3rd generation,
children of the cousins
-- "da keiki"
* da = the; in Hawaiian
pidgin, we drop our aitches and "t" becomes "d".
Y (Aunty Blanche's and Aunty
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.
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'...
the river and through the woods to Uncle
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.
(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.
(our goddaughter, now 25 and a professional designer/artist) and Jonathan (her tall,
and handsome businessman husband -- and our adored godson-in-law --
with El Salvador roots), Alana S (our
22 and a bio-technologist, i.e., a professional pipetter), cousin Judy
(businesswoman with a thriving business)
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.
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
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,
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
fingers and/or chopsticks, and washing them down with cold beer or refreshing
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.
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
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
and doors will open where there were no doors."
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.
written in the 1880s for a Hawaiian Thanksgiving feast
With lots of island
hospitality and generosity,
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
I and Favorites
2] and I madly scribbled the following to list
them here for posterity:
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
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
Shannon: media, music and good meal
Loreen: rubber shrimp scampi and
Kisa: thick hair and dependable people
Kent: gardening (lawnmowing), sports
Aunty D (me): purple
Uncle LeRoy: tennis and fishing
Steven: Japanese shrimp and BBQ
* I couldn't read my chicken scratch notes...too much wine,
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
Stable and dependable: Aunty Blanche and Aunty
* 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.
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.
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
I fell asleep aglow with
Hau`oli Lâ Ho`omaika`i
Thanksgiving in Hawaiian
Menu in Hawaiian
Cherry Jello Mold
with Coca Cola as the
old family favorite,
especially for Thanksgiving
Bread & Macadamia Stuffing
with Chinese Sausage and Pineapple
Advertiser's Holiday Pupu Recipe Contest Winners
"Life is a Gift."
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.
only gift is a portion of thyself..."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
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