When I first moved to the Island, it surprised me at how the lexicon differed so much from where I use to live in San Diego. Hawaiian pidgin, a creole that developed from a mix of languages from a mix of people that moved here, worked here, and made a life here. Being a linguist myself, it was so fascinating to see how this language was used. Words were written down in my language notebook. A few forgotten. A few used everyday. But there are a few that really moved me, once I understood the cultural context.
One of those words are hanai. In the English, it means adopted. But there is so much that goes into that word. The welcoming of one into their home. The sharing of their food. The sharing of stories. The bringing into a place when once you stood apart from it. You become family. Like you were born to them.
When I first moved to the Big Island, it was such a hard cultural shock for me. Living in a small town where everyone knew everyone. Where they know all of the cultural context of every story and joke told. Where pidgin was spoken more than standardized English. Everything was different and I was overwhelmed and missing home and all things familiar.
And then I found about my Auntie Ipo (her name means sweetheart in Hawaiian). She lived in my town. She wasn't a true born to me auntie. But she was from my past. A good friend of my parents from back when I was a baby. Suddenly I had a person to ground me. A person from my past. With stories about my people. I clung to the familiarity that she brought to me in a new place. She was my comfort. She was my family. She wen hanai me. She not only adopted me. She gave me the gift of hawaiian quilting. From tracing patterns to threading a needle, she taught me what her mother taught her during our afternoon visits. Now, those long hours of doing nothing but sitting and thinking about what I missed and didn't have were now filled with creating. My attention was fully absorbed into a project in which I focused all of my energy and in the end was rewarded with a tangible item that would make my space beautiful. That would make this place a home.
For Liam's birthday, she dropped by with a present for him. Something she was working on since May. A blanket of appliquéd fish that are local to the Island. Her present was the first ever present that he opened. The most precious memory was watching her point to the fish and tell her what they were. Of his little hands running over her work. She has three other grandchildren, and Liam is the first one to be gifted with an appliquéd blanket. My gratitude runs so deep. My love so strong. How do you say thank you to someone that has given so much? A special present for Liam. But I feel like I was oh so blessed by her. By her labor and how freely she gave of her knowledge that gave me a craft.
Oh I hope everyone of you has a mentor. Has a friend. Has a family that makes you feel as I do. My cup runneth over. I hope yours does too.