Sharing A Lei Of Heartwarming Stories
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.