It’s great to feel so welcomed.
Erin and I arrived late yesterday afternoon at Honolulu Airport and called up Regine Shimomura, a cousin I’d never met. She’s the twin sister of Laura McHugh, who was stuck at a hair appointment. We’re staying at Laura’s home, so one we got the rental car, we called Regina to get directions from the airport to the suburban town of Mililani, to the northwest of Honolulu.
What I remember from my childhood visit to Hawaii is the sun, the clouds and the wind. The clouds are always on the move, with the wind pushing them along. It seems like Hawaii is just always breezy.
The H-1 highway, which we drove onto right from the airport, was just getting bogged down with rush hour traffic, so it took us about half an hour just to go a short distance before we got on the H-1, the highway that traverses Oahu vertically and ends up at the fabled North Shore, haven for hipsters and surf freaks in search of the Big Kahuna. Mililani is only a few miles north on the H-2, though, just one exit past the exit for Costco (which we noted so we could circle back for shopping).
Mililani feels like an upper-middle class bedroom community, with nice, clean bungalow homes lined up â€“ it feels very safe, and comfortable. Their house is beautiful. It’s a new two-story bungalow with Pergo-style flooring that looks just like Hawaiian koa wood; there’s a great mix of Western and Japanese furniture all throughout, with some very nice Japanese art and antiques in the house. Laura’s daughter Marika let us in, and we interrogated her for a while. She’s a beautiful teenager, a senior in high school who wants to attend San Francisco Art Institute.
Laura’s husband John came home not long after and saved Marika from our probing questions. John’s a friendly, relaxed guy who works in the agricultural management field. He had spent the past day on the “Big Island,” training disadvantaged farmers on management techniques. He brought home a box of fresh papayas â€“ Erin’s favorite â€“ that was given to him and his partner as a thanks for the training. I noticed when I walked in the house that he had a very nice Irish tweed driving cap; it turns out he’s a hat man (and, I see from his office, a camera guy, since he has an old Nikon 35 mm on his shelf). We liked him immediately.
|The backyard of Laura and John’s house, where John has planted a number of local trees and plants in the rich red soil.|
Cousin Amy arrived next. A small woman who seems on the shy side, she’s a Sakuma, whose grandmother was my grandmother’s sister-in-law. Phew … that’s how complicated this family business can get. She’s one of the planning committee members for the reunion.
Regina and her husband Dick arrived, carrying some of the food. She’s made lau lau â€“ steamed pork spiced and wrapped in lau lau leaves â€“ from scratch, and also bought some Kahlua pork from Costco, which she had doctored up with some extra spices. She also made haupia, a kid of jellylike coconut custard.
Laura got home from her hair appointment, with long straight hair (Regine’s is short). She and Regina are identical twins, but with opposite dispositions â€“ Laura is introspective and Regina is, as Laura calls her, “Miss Hospitality.” They’re both super-friendly, though, and have identical voices and mannerisms. It’s wonderful, like speaking to a double-image of Diane Keaton..
Amidst all the great conversation and a lot of belly laughs we managed to sit down for dinner.
For dinner we had the lau lau and Kahlua pig, Poi, rice, lomi salmon (like pico de gallo with delicious shredded salmon), poki (maguro â€“ tuna â€“ sashimi with sesame oil, onions and spices). We finished up with the haupia for dessert.
After just a couple of hours we felt like we’ve known these people all our lives. We fell into bed exhausted, and slept like rocks.
Now we’re having fresh papaya and Activa for breakfast with our Morning Thunder tea.
It’s amazing how peaceful and serene it is here. We’re on the back porch of the McHughs’ home, looking out over the cliff at houses and apartment buildings dotting the verdant hillside across the gulch.
|A beautiful start to our Hawaiian journey, from the McHughs’ backyard.|
The soundtrack for breakfast, aside from the tapping of the laptop keys, is the soft rustling of leaves that surges like waves breaking on the shore from time to time, punctuated by the trilling and chirping of tropical birds. It feels and sounds like a foreign country compared to Colorado.
Laura filled us in more on family history, and showed us the family tree she’d done for the reunion, which focuses on the Sakuma side of the family. We’re having a pre-reunion parry tonight, so we’ll meet about 40 people at the house. Erin and I are helping and preparing some food, so we’ll head out in a bit for the supermarket â€¦ and of course, Costco.