Kristen Nemoto Jay
Every New Year’s Eve since I can remember, I watched the ball drop in New York City’s Time Square on television. I loved watching the people, bundled up in their marshmallow jackets, waving ferociously at the camera while holding up New Year’s hats, glasses and other paraphonalia. It was a world away from where I usually was, at my grandmother’s house in WaimĀnalo with — what can only be described as — bombs going off outside. I particularly remember the early 90s through the early 2000s, when all hell would break loose on the usually empty street. Pop … BOOM! Pop … BOOM! Was all we heard all day long til the stroke of 15 minutes after midnight on New Year’s Day. It was an unspoken, yet well-known, rule along the block, and many blocks, that it’s considered somewhat rude to keep popping past midnight. I remember having my once a year talk story session with my grandmother’s neighbors during that time frame as that was the next protocol post-fireworks: help sweep up your mess and nearby debris. No matter how obnoxious your fireworks or behavior prior (including an instance of a cousin who once caused a raucous symphony of car alarms to go off after he lit an aerial from a metal trash can), you help sweep up. Period.
I found every New Year’s Eve to be so adventurous and kind of contradictory to my upbringing. Maybe a lot of locals from Hawai‘i can especially relate. Rather than being told to be our usual quiet and still selves, my brother and I were encouraged to stay up all night, eat all the food that was laid out throughout the evening and light fireworks; of all things. The loud booms outside never even phased my grandmother, who would just stop mid sentence when she heard a “Pop…” and then waited until the “BOOM!” before continuing on with her story, while holding up and sipping out of her tea cup. With the New Year’s Eve party in NYC on television in the background, my grandmother helping pass out our neighbor’s kinako mochi and drunk cousins lighting fireworks from unauthorized containers on the street … life was great, memorable and absolutely wonderful.
When my grandmother passed away, New Year’s Eve celebrations at the house began to dwindle. She was the glue that brought everyone together. Though she was soft-spoken, her warmth and hospitality to everyone who visited was felt and missed when she was no longer there. Most of our lives then shifted to doing our own things. I went off to grad school in Chicago, my cousins began spending New Year’s Eve with their partner’s families, and my parents, who now live in my grandmother’s house, started to enjoy a (sorta) quieter New Year’s Eve. Or, at least a quieter New Year’s Eve in front of their house. Since I married my husband, we’ve been celebrating New Year’s Eve at his parent’s house in Kahalu‘u. These past two Eves, however, were spent in an air-conditioned hotel room in Waikïkï as a way to help our newborn, at the time, sleep through the night.
I didn’t realize how much I missed our New Year’s Eve celebrations at my grandmother’s house until our daughter was born. I thought about all those memories I had created with my family and how I’d love for our daughter to experience and create new ones of her own. This New Year’s Eve will be the first time our daughter will experience a “real” New Year’s celebration in Hawai‘i. Since she’s old enough now to understand what the loud sound of fireworks are and can, thankfully, sleep for a full 10 hours a night without much peep, we decided to celebrate it for real — at my aunt’s house — this time around.
The mourning and longing for what was my New Year’s Eve experiences will now be filled with new ones, similar to the theme of this issue of The Hawai‘i Herald. While The Hawai‘i Herald’s former editor and staff writer Karleen Chinen, and many others, grieve the loss of Dr. Franklin Odo, a scholar and activist who — among his many roles — served as the director of the Asian Pacific American Program at the Smithsonian Institution, she also remembers the important lessons that he’s taught us all, which includes advice that “if you don’t control your own culture and your own vision of life, and your own participation in life, then you don’t control anything.” Freelance writer Carolyn Morinishi wrote about her appreciation for the experience she had at this year’s first Worldwide Uchinanchu Taikai Festival since the pandemic shut it down in 2021. That even though she’s not Okinawan, she’s “Uchinanchu-at-heart” and can’t wait to create new memories from what she’s learned and hopefully attend the next Taikai in 2027. George Furukawa shares the history of the Ige family, of Ige’s Lunch Wagon and Catering, business and what they look forward to the most in the days to come (including Ron Ige’s other wishful business ventire had he not gone into the food business).
As this is the last issue of the year 2022, I wish you all a healthy, safe and prosperous New Year! May we take what we learned, our past experiences and memories, and transform them to make new ventures. Make your own fireworks this coming year. Not literally, of course, but ways to honor what you’ve learned from your past in order to move forward fruitfully into your future.
I’ve said it in my last Dialogue to you all but I have to say it again because it continues to ring true: Thank you, reader, for your support. For being a part of The Hawai‘i Herald’s past, present and future. We wouldn’t be here in existence without you. Aloha!