Shar­ing A Lei Of Heart­warm­ing Sto­ries

MidWeek (Hawaii) - - Front Page - MOON­LIGHT­ING Jade Moon

Bad news, bad news, bad news. It’s been a hor­ren­dous cou­ple of weeks. So for this week’s col­umn, I de­cided to give my­self — and you — a break from it all and go for some­thing beau­ti­ful, fun and up­lift­ing.

I’ve been ob­sessed with lei re­cently, pho­tograph­ing them when­ever I have the chance. So I put out a sim­ple re­quest on Facebook: Tell me, what’s your fa­vorite lei, and why?

Wow. I was touched and a lit­tle over­whelmed by the re­sponses.

Robin An­der­son shared a beau­ti­ful mem­ory:

“My fa­vorite lei is the one I was given by my 9-yearold autis­tic grand­daugh­ter. My dream for 40 years has been to visit Hawai‘i. I have told Bella many times how much I would love to go to Hawai‘i and take her with me. For her birth­day, she chose to have a Hawaiian luau theme party! She had leis for ev­ery­one who came to her party. She put my lei around my neck and said, I love you Oma, wel­come to our Hawai‘i. She even danced her ver­sion of the hula. I have kept that lei and it means the world to me.”

Robin, I’m sure you’ll make i t t o Hawai‘ i one day and you will wear a sweet-smelling lei.

There were so many beau­ti­ful sto­ries. But my fa­vorite was writ­ten by 32-year-old Mililani res­i­dent Sarah Malia Ike­hara. See the pic­ture of her with her cute-as-a-but­ton daugh­ter, Shae­dyn?

Here’s Sarah’s charm­ing and poignant mem­ory of her grand­fa­ther:

will al­ways be the puak­enikeni. When I was younger and in el­e­men­tary, my grandpa would al­ways have a puak­enikeni lei for my sis­ter and me for spe­cial oc­ca­sions like birth­days, grad­u­a­tions and May Days. I al­ways thought he was Hawaiian, be­cause he was as lo­cal as they come, with a per­pet­ual tan, pid­gin as stan­dard lan­guage, and a habit of eat­ing onions raw - ish­ing a bowl of poi with his - ized my lo­cal boy Ja­panese grandpa had strung the lei from his yard. Once, for a school func­tion in in­ter­me­di­ate school, he taught me how.

He’d bring over his bea­tup Sty­ro­foam cooler with wet news­pa­pers, fresh- picked puak­enikeni (oh, the won­der­ful smell when he opened it up!), his big lei nee­dle, yarn touch. He showed me how to - ag­o­nally, so they sit closer to­gether), and al­ways made the yarn too long (yarn was al­ways brown for blend­ing pur­poses).

“I helped string my own lei for my high school grad­u­a­tion, as by that time he was in his early ’90s and not as deft with his hands as he used to be. But he was, of course, watch­ing and in­struct­ing. - ways was) to wear the lei of home­grown, hand­picked and strung-with-love, beau­ti­ful, ‘ono-smelling puak­enikeni. He passed be­fore I grad­u­ated from col­lege, and of all lei I re­ceived, I missed the sweet-smelling puak­enikeni one the most. Each year, on May Day and my birth­day, I go down to the air­port and buy my­self a puak­enikeni lei to smell and rem­i­nisce the times with my grandpa ( I wish I could make my own but I don’t have a tree). Then I try to get up to Punch­bowl to leave the lei for him.”

What an un­ex­pected gem of a story. Ma­halo, Sarah Ma- lia, for bright­en­ing our world with your aloha.

Sarah Malia Ike­hara poses for a photo with her daugh­ter, Shae­dyn.

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