by Lisa Atkinson
Starting new traditions and keeping some of the old ones
We unexpectedly lost my dad earlier this year, so I was a little worried about how the holidays would go.
Having just moved to Hilo in May, I invited my mom, brother, and nephew to come to visit for Christmas, knowing that being in the family home in Oregon might be bittersweet. For my brother and nephew, it was their first-ever visit to the Aloha State. For my brother, it was his first time, EVER, flying over the ocean. I was determined, despite a random and brutal sciatic nerve issue, to make it the best six days I could. The first thing I did was take them to Hawaiian Style Café for dinner. My brother ordered kalua pig (for the first of four times). My nephew followed my lead and ordered the lechon, my mom had mixed plate with kalbi ribs, and we all shared a bowl of luau stew.
The next day (Day 1), I took them to my favorite beach park: Carlsmith.
My honu friends appeared as if on cue, much to their delight. They couldn’t believe how big and graceful our Island ambassadors are, and how they weren’t afraid of the weird humans who kept ooooing and ahhhhing. And it was sunny ALL DAY! Topped off the day with a late lunch at Hula Hulas (LOVE the kama’aina discount, guys!).
Day 2 we holoholo’d out to Poho’iki for them to see the enormity of the 2018 lava flow. They were intrigued by the black sand and amazed at how Pele took out an entire boat launch (save a portion of the ramp and concrete walkway). Then we went up to Rainbow Falls and Boiling Pots. Although it had rained heavily and the water was a bit brown, they were still impressed with our local waterfalls. Next, we shopped in lovely downtown Hilo. Local merchants definitely benefitted from my brother’s habit of last-minute Christmas shopping, and I took advantage of some sales and got myself an “Eddie Would Go” shirt and a new Sig Zane dress.
Day 3 we went to my favorite farmer’s market at Maku’u. We wandered the stalls full of fruits and veg the likes of which they’d never seen, then settled in and listened to the live music while eating some of the ono food from the vendors. My nephew (age 19), on his own, chose salt and pepper Ika!
Day 4 we all went Kona side in hopes of filling my freezer with freshly-caught fish (ok, maybe that was my ulterior motive for scheduling the fishing charter), but alas, Ku’ula deemed us to be unworthy and all we went home with was the tray of uni I’d pre-ordered from a guy named Chuck.
Day 5 was Christmas Eve. Nephew and I hit Carlsmith again while Mom and Brother did more shopping (did I mention he is a last-minute shopper?). Then we headed back to our house for one long-standing Atkinson family tradition: fondue. Using vegetables purchased from Maku’u and elk meat from the fall Mainland hunt. We enjoyed dinner out on our lanai- something that would never have occurred on December 24 in Oregon.
Day 6 we all went back to Carlsmith to swim with the honus and fishes (not in the mob sense). For the first time since I moved here, I actually saw a parrotfish! Then we went home and enjoyed my 39-cent per pound Foodland ham (STEAL!!!) crisped up on the grill, along with the Moloka’i purple sweet potatoes I grow, a salad made of Kamuela tomatoes and cucumbers, and rolls made from my great-grandmother’s recipe.
Day 7 we finished their visit with breakfast at Kuhio Grille, where I introduced them to sour cream biscuits and why there should ALWAYS be gravy on an omelet. It was sad to see them go home, but I know that I planted the seeds for many visits to come. Yes, we miss Dad, but blending old traditions with some new ones was a fitting way to take another step on the journey forward. And now my family has a taste for what it means to be Living Hilo Style.