What is family, island style

13 09 2009

Today might be a good day to talk about my family, or shall I say families. I’ll at least start. I am an only child, and my bloodline ends with me. Sometimes people feel sorry for me because of that, until they discover, “Oh, you have Family!”

Today might be good day to talk about family because we’re having Sunday dinner with my hanai family at our house, and I’m cooking. It’s our turn, and it will be a coming out party for 4-month-old Ayla (see my post “Miss Marvelous discovers her toes”), who is the daughter of my step-daughter.

My hanai (adopted) family came into my life about the time I transitioned from high school to college, well, earlier when I met Margy the first day I was a 9th grader. We remained best friends through Punahou. During my parents’ divorce when I was 17, Margy’s  parents—a doctor and his wife with six children—welcomed me into their home where I roomed until I landed my first job at The Honolulu Advertiser as a general assignment reporter. With that job I earned enough money to pay for my own apartment on Lanihuli Drive and moved out.

Family dinner is usually at Mom’s house. This is typical everywhere, as long as the matriarch is living, isn’t it? After that, the family sort of breaks up and the next generation of matriarchs takes over.

We’ll see who shows up: My nephew might have a flag football game. I’m told he is one of the better players. His dad who followed his father’s footsteps and became a physician—stay with me, now—might be on call. My sister, who competes in dressage, is showing her horse for the first time in a two-day event this weekend and hopes she will have the energy afterward to drive out to Kaaawa from Waimanalo. And ditto about the energy for a brother and his family who have a lunch party to attend at Bellows beach.

Some of my hanai family in the summer of 2008 in Washington, D. C., the year our mom Ivalee received the Jefferson Award.

Mom, who doesn’t drive anymore, will be catching a ride with Becky. Becky and I were each others’ first roommates in the Lanihuli apartment, and she’s family too. In any case, I’m making food for 15. Everyone wants to see and meet the baby.

Today might be a good day to talk about family because on Reiki Friday I saw a client from glee club who read my post “Sweet memories and coming home, part 1” and asked if I was related to Uncle Harry and Aunty Edna.

It is a growing fashion these days where I live to address anyone older than you, if even by a couple of years, as Uncle and Aunty whether you are related by blood or not. I’m sure it is done out of respect, but some people use the names almost as if they are punctuation marks in a way that, in my opinion, dilutes the title. I tend to agree with an authority on Hawaiian naming at Kamehameha Schools who prefers not to be called Uncle unless he is your real uncle. That’s okay, you can call me Aunty, but I prefer Aunty Rebekah.

So when my client asked if I was related to Uncle Harry and Aunty Edna, I thought to myself, yes, that’s why they are Uncle and Aunty, but I understood why she asked. Then I saw her resemblance to Harry. It turns out that Harry and Edna were her uncle and aunty too, and we’re related!—by marriage.

“We used to drive to Wahiawa to get lychee every year,” she said.  As they say, small world. Through family ties that extend all the way back to Kohala and the Basel Mission in China’s Kwangtung province, she explained how she knew many of my first cousins on my mother’s side of the family. My mother was the youngest of 15 Chongs. But that is another story, a story told in The Chong Family History by J. H. Kim On Chong-Gossard.* I sent my client off with a copy. “You’ll enjoy this because you know all of the people in it,” I said.

We are One.

My maternal grandparents and 13 of their 15 children in Kohala. My mother, seated front row and center, ws the baby of the family.

These are my ancestors: my maternal grandparents and 13 of their 15 children in Kohala in 1920. My mother, seated front row and center, was three years old and the baby of the family. Edna is the tall, darker complected girl on the right in the back row.

Copyright 2009 Rebekah Luke

* The Chong Family History by J. H. Kim On Chong-Gossard (Kaaawa: Chong Hee Books, 1992, ISBN 0-9634186-0-2, soft cover, 172 pages) is a five-generation family biography, or Jia Pu, of Chong How Kong and Pan Siu Chin and their descendants. Copies sell for $35 and are available from the publisher Chong Hee Books, P. O. Box 574, Kaaawa, HI 96730.

For information on Reiki Friday, click REIKI HEALING BY OELEN in the menu bar.

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