Editor’s note: Every so often, subscribers send in — by USPS mail or email — a letter or an essay or short story about something they experienced in their lives. They’re usually only a few hundred words in length, but they make you stop and reflect on relationships and bygone years. Earlier this year, I decided to start sharing them with you from time to time, with the author’s permission. Here are the first three short stories.
Shared by Kevin Y. Kawamoto
The Japanese side of me
wanted to clean the cupboards
by New Year’s Day.
Those random containers,
some with lids, some without,
stared at me all year.
pleading for organization.
“Later . . .” I responded.
As children, we removed
dirty window screens
and scrubbed them down
with water, Ajax and a tawashi brush,
those rigid brown bristles
poking at our pink palms.
We wiped dirty glass jalousies
with rags — puka shirts,
somebody’s disgarded underwear —
and swept, mopped, washed
at a frenetic pace.
I don’t know who told us this,
but we knew that to work this hard
on New Year’s Day
was to set a bad precedent
for the rest of the year.
In the days before
the first of January,
my family turned into a cleaning crew.
When the new year arrived,
we were all in a bad mood
and cussing out each other
under our breath.
By evening we had to be jovial
for the big party at our house,
Today I fight the compulsion
to organize the cupboards.
I just don’t want to do it.
But the Japanese side of me says:
“If you don’t, you will have messy cupboards
for the rest of the year.”
My hands reach for the shelves,
controlled by the cleanly ghosts
Kevin Kawamoto is a longtime contributor to The Hawai‘i Herald.
“THANK YOU” NODS FROM LOVED ONES
Shared by Rev. Irene Matsumoto
This morning, I read the Honolulu Star-Advertiser headline, “THEY’RE BACK,” about the green sea turtles. Several years ago, we had a very unusual encounter with those beautiful green sea turtles at Hale‘iwa Beach.
I was born in Wahiawä and my favorite beach was Hale‘iwa Beach.
My sister, Ethel Howey, who lived in San Antonio (Texas), lost her daughter Susan through an unfortunate traffic accident in Virginia. Susan’s request was to have her ashes scattered at Hale‘iwa. My sisters, Margaret Tanaka and Marion Ishikawa, accompanied my husband, Susan’s husband and her daughter to scatter the ashes.
Ethel and I spoke many times about scattering the ashes at Hale‘iwa, and she had expressed her desire to have her ashes scattered at Hale‘iwa. In 2004, when Ethel passed away, her children came to my temple for the 49th day memorial service, and her daughter Bette, who was the estate trustee, asked me if I would keep her mom’s urn at the temple. I honored her request, but after many years, as I grew older, I worried about Ethel’s urn and the ashes. I decided that the best solution was to honor her request and scatter her ashes. I contacted one of Ethel’s daughters, Karen, who came for the scattering of ashes memorial service.
My life is in Honolulu, and I knew I would get lost driving to Hale‘iwa. Randy Nakamura, who helps with the maintenance of the temple, said he would take Karen, my daughter Carol and me to Hale‘iwa. As he drove, I was touched by the beautiful day, so serene, and impressed with the beauty of the countryside.
My sister Margaret, who was at Susan’s scattering of ashes and her son Earl met us at Hale‘iwa. As soon as we got out of the car, Karen said, “Look at that beautiful monarch butterfly circling us.” The view from the beach out to the sea was picturesque.
My sister showed us where the other scattering of ashes had taken place. Randy said he would take the ashes out where the ocean is pristine. As he took it far out to sea, we were pleasantly surprised that two green sea turtles came to the shore and began to nod their heads at us, returning many times to the shore, always nodding their heads toward us. It was like my sister Ethel and her daughter Susan were saying “thank you” to us.
Sherry Ryan, my Wahiawä niece, had gathered the family at Dots to have a family gathering. Of course, we had to relate the unusual encounter with the two green sea turtles to the rest of the family. I believe it was the right thing to scatter my sister’s ashes at Hale‘iwa Beach.
The Rev. Irene Matsumoto is the minister of the Palolo Kwannon Temple. She is also a former public school teacher.
A LIFETIME OF GRATITUDE
Shared by Richard Miyao
It’s the season to thank all friends, also members and supporters of the Izumo Taisha for their long-standing friendship and fellowship. Having been born into a priest’s family, my brother, sister and myself naturally helped the shrine since birth, and we still continue to do so together with many members.
The history of our Hawaii Izumo Taisha Shrine is unique. It is a legacy reaching back to 1906, when my grandparents came with blessings from the Japan headquarters and ventured to Hawai‘i. They struggled with the immigrants to build a temporary shrine and built the present shrine in 1922.
On the afternoon of Dec. 7, 1941, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, my father was taken to Sand Island, following the Bishop of Honpa Hongwanji and a Dr. Kohatsu. We three children were left alone without both parents, who later were sent to two separate camps on the Mainland. It was a mistake that was finally corrected after 10 months. Distant relatives took care of us and we were finally reunited with both parents in Seagoville, Texas, in late fall of 1942. Internment camp life continued until December 1945, when our family returned to Hawai‘i . . . to nothing.
My parents, together with core leaders filed a petition with over 50,000 signatures with the Board of Supervisors (predecessor of the City Council) and endured close to 15 difficult years to reclaim, raise funds, and repair and restore the shrine. Akira Otani is now the lone survivor. Many of your grandparents and parents may have assisted the shrine with petitions and support. Thank you.
In 1968, when the late Superintendent Michihiko Senge came to officiate the rededication, he made a statement not to be forgotten: “The members and believers are the shrine, not the structures.” We are thankful for the leaders’ efforts to reorganize and we now enjoy their legacy. We hope the spirit of the earlier generations are honored and carried on by the present and future generations.
Gratitude is expressed twice: 1) To our shrine members for supporting me in my serving as a volunteer executive director of Izumo Taisha for 30 years after appointment by president Albert Kobayashi, and extended by later Board actions until summer 2017, when I voluntarily resigned; and 2) At the same time, it was possible for me to pursue my profession as a lawyer in private practice. Again, thank you.
Richard T. Miyao is an attorney in Honolulu.