|Written by Marguerite Heng|
My mother was born and raised in Hilo. Her parents were both Portuguese and her father came from the old country. Her mother was born in Kohala. I didn't come to the islands until I was 4. It was during World War II, and the only way Mother and I were getting back to Hawaii was on a Navy Hospital Ship. My father, who was already there, and my grandfather worked for six months trying to get us passage. Unfortunately, my grandfather died four months before we arrived.
In 1944, I began my life in Hawaii. I grew up loving all the time that I have spent there. Growing up in the Navy I never had a home to call my own, but I always felt Hilo was my home. We spent many good days at my grandmother's house on Mohouli Street. Across the street was guava bushes, and we use to go in there and pick as many as we wanted. They are long gone, but the memories are still there.
I remember walking down Kilauea Avenue to the Hilo Drug where my cousin and I would sit at the counter and drink Cherry Cokes. These were the days when they made the cokes from scratch. Then we would walk back home and stop by the Sushi shop and buy cone sushi and fish cakes. We would eat them on the way home.
My grandmother had a huge front yard. I think a lot of people in Hawaii back in those days had big front yards. We would take turns mowing the grass with the push lawn mower. Her house was also high up off the ground and underneath was dirt. It was a great place to play on those rainy days. My grandfather became a taxi driver after his father died, and made a good living raising 16 children.
My favorite story of my Mother's days is how she met my father. The Circus came to town and she went with her girlfriend Lucille. My father was on Shore Patrol. He saw her there, but he couldn't talk to her that night. So the next day he went back. As it were, so did Mother and Lucille. He started talking to Lucille and she introduced mother to my Father. Daddy asked her out but she told him he would have to go ask her father. She thought he wouldn't take the time. He did and my grandfather liked him. He called my Mother and told her she could go out with him. Their dates in those days were on the front porch.
For the next two years whenever the ship was in Hilo, my Father came over. Promptly at 10:00 my grandmother would knock on the wall and say time to go home. Daddy would start walking back and half way down the block my grandfather would stop, pick him up and take him back to the ship. They were married 59 years. My Daddy has been gone for 5 years, but Mother is still going strong at 85.
I think growing up in Hawaii and always coming back will remain in my memories until the end of time. It was a place of joy and a way of life that no one can know who didn't experience it. I have taken my son there twice, and he fell in love with the beauty and charm the first time. Whenever we want a little bit of the islands, we go to Island Boys here in San Diego and enjoy the food of the island. We have found all the places that sell the good food from Hawaii -- the mochi, manjus, sweetbread, laulaus and Portuguese sausage, and the pilot crackers. Mother and Steve love the KimChi and I like the Akaume Zuke. The mainland sushi is not like the island cone sushi, but we eat it anyway. We also make our own.
I love the stories that my Mother tells me of the islands. I have my own memories as well. The one that will always stand out best in my mind is the one day at the end of WWII. I was standing with my Mother in our yard. We were living in Honlulu in the Kaimuki area on Sunset Cliffs. Out on the bay were ships, hundreds of ships that were returning from distant places in the Pacific. It was the most beautiful sight in the world.
Whenever my cousins get together we talk of our times in Hawaii. Most of all my cousins have moved to California. I still have cousins left on the Big Island and Oahu, but not many. We talk of the good times and most of all the food. I was told once that it sounded like all we ever did was eat. I remember when I took my son to Hawaii the first time. My ex-husband was with us. We had gone up to the Volcano and were touring back when my cousin and I both said stop. He couldn't understand why we wanted to stop in the middle of no where there was nothing to see. Ah, but there was something to see. Guavas and Vives growing all over the place. We picked all we could and ate as much as we could. Tourist don't know what they miss.
San Diego is where I live, but nothing can compare to living in Hawaii. There was a peaceful air about the place. A special type of tranquility that you can find no where else. People were carefree and proud of their heritage no matter where they came from. They all blended together to make Hawaii a good place to live. My grandfather and grandmother brought up their children with good morals and good values. I am proud to be Portuguese and I am proud to have a Mother that grew up in such a wonderful place where life was good.
Hawaii will always be a part of my heart, the music a part of my soul and the memories a part of my mind... when I put it all together... I simply call it the ... 'Hawaiian Spirit'.
Marguerite Heng now lives with her mother in La Mesa, CA, a short distance from San Diego.
I work as a Claims Assistant for the Professional Risk Management Department of UCSD. I went to high school in Eudora, Arkansas. attended the University of Arkansas and San Jose City College. From the teachings of my mother, I have the values and the love of Hawaii. From my father, I have the history and roots from the South. I have always said I come from the best of two worlds.