Uncle Ray Talks Story

[This is Sharlene writing the majority of this; Uncle Ray’s voice comes at the end of this post.]

I grew up on the mainland. I loved going to Hawaii and spending time with the ‘ohana. I’d keep my Hawaiian aloha going when back home in California. As a kid I adored the yellow book, Pidgin to da Max, and I loved listening to cassette tapes of Frank de Lima’s comedy sketches. I danced hula on & off, as a kid and adult. I have quite a few friends with Hawaiian roots and connections.

I share this because I’m not local or kama’aina (born and raised in Hawaii), but I’m familiar with what’s local. I notice and experience things differently than true locals. I will sometimes write and explain things that would be obvious or maybe uninteresting to locals, and sometimes I may even get things a little wrong (if so, please let me know).

In Hawaii, the culture is to call your peers “braddah” and “sistah” and your parents’ peers “uncle” and “aunty.” So, when you and your dad order poke at Umeke’s, da braddah behind the counter might ask your dad, “Uncle, you like brown or white rice wid dat?”

One time I was in the sitting area at Daleco waiting for a new car battery to be installed. I kept hearing, “Aunty! You like eat Cheetos?” “Aunty, you like?” I finally looked up. Oh, they were talking to ME! The three guys behind the counter were having a snack, and good manners dictated they also offer me some. And now the time has come … I’m in the aunty generation.

My friends’ young daughter once told me, “Aunty, no offense, but my mom and dad said your grey hair makes you look old. But no offense.” I think I caught her by surprise with my response, “So why are you telling me then?” I am old. Older than her and many others; younger than others. A meditation mantra I like comes to mind, one I find particularly helpful in acknowledging and accepting our human condition:

I am of the nature to age.
I am of the nature to get sick.
I am of the nature to die.

All this has been a meandering wind-up for the rest of this post and a few upcoming posts. “Uncle Ray” is a Hawaiian uncle, not my blood uncle like Uncle Harold (UH), but a family friend and a peer of Bea’s. During the stay-at-home order (recently loosened to safer-at-home), three of my mom’s generation have been sheltering altogether on their parents’ former coffee farm. I asked them if they had stories to share from the old coffee farm days. Uncle Ray rose to the challenge, giving me several stories.

More Than Just a Coffee Farm
The “coffee land,” as we called the farm, grew more than just coffee. Coffee was the
economic platform on which the family stood. But coffee was only the floor of the
house – the values of a family working together for the good of all created the walls
and roof that sheltered and nurtured the occupants of the house. There were
branches to be pruned, young shoots to be yanked off the tree trunk to prevent
over-growth of branches, fertilizer to be applied, weeds to be dealt with, coffee
berries to be harvested, and the berries to be processed and dried. It was a carefully orchestrated effort with everyone in the family playing a part. The coffee land brewed and fostered robust values of work, ethics, accomplishment, cooperation, appreciation, and enjoyment that created an Arabica brew that was uniquely Kona Coffee.

“Uncle Ray”

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