From This Place

Monday Musings from Melinda #5 by LHS contributor Melinda M.

What is it like to be raised in a place where sand is black crushed lava? Where you share the beach and ocean with prehistoric turtles? Where the skies open and sheets of heavy tropical rain drench you in seconds, but you don’t stop your soccer game, track meet or swimming unless there’s thunder?

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Sand made from lava and turtles=a Hilo beach.

This is what wonder as I watch my children grow up in what still feels like a vacation destination to me. Nearly every day I look at my children sideways and wonder, “What is it like to grow up here? To be from here?”

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Poi is part of a Hilo childhood diet.

I’m originally from the New Jersey suburbs of New York City but have lived more than half my life in Hawaii, most of those years in Hilo. And yet, on most days when I’m out and about with my children, I want to shout with outstretched arms,  “Isn’t this GREAT?!” as though we’re on vacation. But of course we’re not. They’re definitely not. They are from here.

And in those moments, when I’m watching them build their adult DNA from the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of their Hilo childhood, I wonder if this is what, on a fraction of a scale, immigrant parents feel. Do they feel a chasm opening as they watch the children who look like them become Americans that are not like them? I mean, I look at my girls, and they look like me, but they are definitely not me. We are not from the same place.

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Lei at every special occasion.

Maybe all parents feel that way, to some extent. Maybe it’s just easier for me to spot here, in a place so different from where I grew up. Maybe many, if not most, of us are so separated from our children by time and technology and sometimes wealth as to make them foreigners to us and us to them.

We are fortunate enough to have traveled so my children have seen the differences between life in Hilo and life in other places; sometimes Hilo comes out “the winner,” sometimes not. We want them to leave, to experience more, but also, maybe, to come back. To come back to this place where who you are as a person is more important than what you do. Where people are generous to a fault and where life is just slow enough to not take rainbows, the full moon rising, and each other for granted.

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A Hilo childhood.

And maybe we’ve achieved that. The other day, my oldest said to me, “I think I’ll come back to Hilo to raise my kids.” Awww. And then: “I don’t want them to ever say ‘Eww, I’m not going to eat SPAM!’” *Sigh.* Not exactly the reason why I want them to want to move back but, hey, it’s a start!

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