Michael G. Malaghan
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
As much as Haru wanted to help her sisters, the more troubling issue at hand was the tension between Taka and his father. Taka wasn’t the first Nisei teenager to take issue with the daily rush from public school to Japanese language school. But advising mothers on how to address the issue of older children resenting the “boring and meaningless” lessons was much easier than handling it with her own son. As she started to rehearse key points, she saw Taka pedaling up the street.
“Let’s ride over to Waikïkï,” she shouted through the back door. She untied her apron and hung it on the wooden peg next to the vegetable cutting board. Swinging open the screen door, she scampered down the steps to the backyard, where Taka had just pulled up on his bike, his legs on the ground straddling his bike’s chipped, red-painted steel bar. Haru ignored her son’s wary look and stepped under the kitchen overhang to grab her lady’s Schwinn. “Let’s go by Kaläkaua and McCully. We can see how the Ala Wai dredging is progressing. I want to share a special memory with you.”
Relieved that he was not being reprimanded, Taka managed an “OK.”
Haru led the single-file ride — Sunday traffic made riding side-by-side dangerous. Besides, she needed time to gather her thoughts. As they cycled, she couldn’t help but notice how much Mö‘ili‘ili had changed in the four years since the dredging had begun. Until the dredging, the area at Kapi‘olani and McCully had been a vast mosquito-infested marshland. Now, “For Sale” signs marked pegged lots on black soil pushing up lime sprouts of recently seeded grass.
Haru stopped. The canal had taken shape — a surveyor’s straight line from the beach on her right, and then, turning her head left, the canal’s starting point far out on the edge of Kapi‘olani Park. “What a change,” she said loudly as Taka pulled up beside her. She pointed to gurgling pumps on a barge near a monster scoop, dripping mud as it rose out of the water like the head of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, slaking its thirst.
“I wonder if Oki Tama is working today,” said Haru.
This respite on the canal reminded Haru of another day, another tour, a previous life. “Let’s go to the park across from the Moana Hotel and find a bench.” As she biked down Kaläkaua, the memories flooded back. Why hadn’t she done this earlier? Four years in Mö‘ili‘ili and I have never brought the children here, never told them the whole story of my first visit.
Haru’s eyes lolled left and right as she glanced ahead at the sidewalks lining the avenue, where men and women in aloha shirts and muumuus strolled hand-in-hand. On her left, youngsters in swimsuits pranced around concrete tables and blankets with spreads of food. To her right, the mostly white sunbathers lay on the beach with a sprinkling of the new phenomena of brown-skinned native beach boys among single Mainland women seeking to realize their island fantasies — or so the newspapers salaciously hinted.
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Editor’s note: We continue Michael G. Malaghan’s serialized historical novel, “Picture Bride — A Family Saga,” based on the Japanese immigrant experience. Malaghan’s trilogy takes readers from turn-of-the-20th-century-Japan to Hawai‘i in the picture bride era; the Islands during World War II, highlighted by the exploits of the Nisei soldiers; and beyond.
The novel, which is now available as a printed softcover book, opens with 12-year-old Haru-chan, fleeing her home in Amakusa, Kyüshü, for Hiroshima, where she becomes the picture bride of a Buddhist priest in Hawai‘i.
Author Michael Malaghan is a retired businessman who divides his time between Hawai‘i, Florida and Japan.