I remember the day of my big trip. A neighbor, who was like an older brother to me, came to say goodbye. He said he didn’t know when he would see me again. I thought it was the oddest thing for him to say. Why wouldn’t he see me again? I was dressed and going to the airport to get on a plane to take a trip to somewhere. But I’d be back, so why was he saying that?
What I didn’t understand was that I wasn’t taking a trip. I was moving. My family was leaving Hawai’i. What my parents hadn’t told me was that I was leaving my grandparents, my uncles, my aunts, my cousins, my friends, my school, my church, my neighborhood, my island.
Maybe my parents said the word, “moving,” but the concept was too big for my brain. And if I understood what “moving” meant, I know its permanence escaped me.
At some point in my adolescence it must have dawned on me that I was not merely on an extended vacation, but it wasn’t until I brought my own children back home to Hawai’i that I experienced severe homesickness. I saw the wholesome things I had as a child, especially the benefits of a multi-generational, extended family. It made me sad to know that I couldn’t give my own children the same experience.
I came back to the mainland very changed, and I was fortunate that my husband understood because he had lived in Hawai’i with his military family as a young child. We sought every opportunity to connect with Hawaiian communities on the mainland. We learned about cultural gatherings and events, and we brought our children. We joined hula hālau (hula schools) and learned to love hula as a family.
My husband and I brought our children home to Hawai’i every year while they were growing up. We made sure they knew their extended family. We made sure they visited all the local hangouts. We made sure they learned all the important cultural places, events, and practices. We made sure they learned Hawaiian history.
It eased my homesickness to give my children as Hawaiian an upbringing as I could on the mainland. My homesickness wasn’t just a yearning to see the faces and places of my childhood. It was a desire to give my children all the best of the home I knew and loved – Hawai’i.
Copyright: Living off Island, writingwahine, 2014.