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An Ohana Feast

September 26th, 2004 · No Comments

Charlee and I went to a first birthday party tonight for a little girl named Lilly. Now here in Hawaii, first birthdays are a big deal, a huge deal. The grandparents spring for a huge party, tons of people come, friends, family, extended family, a big deal. But the coolest part of this party was that Lilly was not the biological granddaughter. Lilly had been adopted from China.

See our friends Lori and Stuart went to China a month or so ago to pick Lilly up. You may remember Stuart from an earlier story. He is a carpenter and was supposed to help me install the new floors in our house, but had to cancel because he had to go get a Chinese baby. At the time, I was against it, and insisted that if they got one Chinese baby they’d just want another one a half hour later, but Stuart and Laurie were resolute and went and got their damn baby anyway…

And it was just swell. I mean just, SWELL. This little kid was so happy, and they were so happy and all the people in this big restaurant that the grandparents had rented for them were so happy for them. The kid clapped and smiled and screamed out stuff like little kids will, you know, little verbal barks, (most of the time it’s the word “no”) only it was in Chinese, so it sounded like there was kung-fu going on in there, but obvious the kid was happy. And Laurie was wearing a red and black silk dress that matched Lilly’s red and black silk dress and Stuart had on one of those ornate Chinese silk jackets and pants, also red and black. They were happy and color coordinated.

So the guy sitting next to me leans over and goes, “Laurie had those made for them in China. Cheap. Child labor you know?” And I go, “Yeah, I know, how long before we can get Lilly to make us some Nikes.” And he goes, “Dude, she’s an American now, you can’t afford her Nikes.” And I go, “Oh yeah. “

So there were slide shows, with Stuart and Laurie posing on the Great Wall of China. (Which, you know what? really? Not that great.) And posing with other adoptive parents, and with a whole line-up of Chinese babies who looked really, really unhappy, mainly, I’m guessing, because China sucks. Anyway, then there was a prayer, and a guy played happy birthday, singing the lyrics in English, Hawaiian, and then Chinese, and one of Stuart’s sisters got up and danced a hula, which was excellent, and I’d never seen a hula performed in jeans, but it didn’t detract. The sister didn’t look anything like Stuart, which is because Stuart is adopted. And so is his brother. And did I mention that most of the people in the room were Japanese, except for the Portuguese, and a few Hawaiians, oh yeah, and a couple of Filipinos, and there was a smattering of Haoles, (the white folks) and a lot of what we on the islands call Hapas, which means mixed race, and Lori and her family are from West Virginia, which I believe makes them Crackers.

And with all that, the M.C. stood and welcomed Lilly into her new family. And he said that because we all live on this small island, we all will have a part in raising this child, so it’s only right that we all take part in this ceremony. (Everyone a generation above you is Auntie or Uncle, even if you can’t trace blood.) And it was sweet and good and I was very happy for this new family, and Charlee and I were honored to have been included in this Ohana, this family.

And it made me think.. If my whole extended family was on an island with me, and supplies ran short, who would we eat first?

Now, this is a hypothetical, because much of my family is dead or afraid of flying, so getting to an island would be really expensive, but, you know, say the family reunion was held on a deserted island. Who would go on the spit first? Grandma is the obvious choice because of her age, if you use that criteria, right? But grandma is not a large woman. I’d say on her best day she’s doesn’t go a buck ten even with the walker and those creepy shoes with the big thick heels. And she can live for three days on one of those jelly things that she steals from Denny’s, so as far as caloric efficiency, she’s not really a logical choice.

So going on those grounds, you have to go for Aunt Vron. (Yes, her name really is Vron, and that is not her Romulan name left over from a Star Trek convention. ) One of Aunt Vron’s breasts is as big as Thanksgiving turkey. Imagine that: two sixteen pound gobblers slung in a Playtex cross your heart, coming across the room at you like guided meat missiles, determined to hug you until you turn blue. (It’s a wonder really, that any of us kids survived the family reunion.) When Aunt Vron decides to move, she has to notify the outer reaches of her hips to begin the trip, and send a telegram that she is moving out to the equator of her ass before everything can be mobilized. A large woman, is what I’m saying. What I’m saying, is that when Aunt Vron sits around the house – well — you know. That lovely, affectionate, gargantuan hunk of avuncular womanhood is calorie-rich, is what I’m saying. Your honor, on a caloric basis, you must fry the bitch up.

But despite her size, Aunt Vron is vital. Vital I tell you! Sure, she might get winded shuffling the cards before she kicks your ass at gin rummy, but if you ever get between Vron and her gallon of potato salad, you will have wished you had smeared yourself with marmalade and tried to blow a Kodiak bear during his nap instead. People have seen her do a ballpark job of parallel parking her ’67 Lincoln Continental with the suicide doors, leaving that jet mama-jama a good three feet from the curb, only to get out, grab her pocketbook, and nudge it up to a tire-width away with the bump of a hip. Her pocketbook alone has herniated a half-dozen gallant gents who held it safe while she rolled into the fitting room, if only for a wisp of a chance at scaling the vertiginous flesh mountain that was Vron (for she was always a widow, even as a child). No, Vron has too much life, you can’t just eat a woman like that.

And so, methinks, it’s time to start basting Uncle B. No one knows what the B stands for. His brothers and sister simply call him B. But what we know about B, what we have always known about B, was that be could never be far from death’s door. At any given hour of the day, Uncle B is smoking and drinking. His right hand is a constant “C” fitted perfectly to the roundness of an Old Fashioned glass. His left hand is a mass of scar tissue from the cigarettes that have burned out in them after he has passed out. Except for the reunion, he lives in a Lazy Boy, which sits next to an ashtray that looks very much like the Olympic torch from the 1968 Mexico City Summer Olympics. It has never been emptied. It is the Gettysburg of ashtrays. Hundreds of thousands of dead, burnt bodies lay in it’s wide field. At some point in the morning, Aunt Alma removes the tumbler from Uncle B’s “C”, and replaces it with a coffee cup, the coffee black and Folgers and laced with brandy. After his breakfast, Uncle B. goes to the bathroom and coughs for an hour and fifteen minutes. Neighborhood dogs howl, children cry, and smokers as far as a half-mile away will crumple their packs and swear “never again” during one of Uncle B’s coughing fits. Then after a six pack to rehydrate, Uncle B is ready to start his day. He’s a uniform olive green color, darkening to a dark gray under his eyes, and although his hair is always combed, severely to the side, like an SS officer’s, and dressed with Brillcream (who knows where he still finds it) he has dandruff flakes the size of Post-its. That, along with the silver trail of ashes that cascade down the front of his shirt through the day, make it appear that gnomes have been helicopter skiing on him. Every time you talk to Uncle B, you say good-bye like it is the last time you are going to see him, even if you are just going to take a leak. Now that’s the kind of guilt-free calories an extended family can live on, right? And! And, it has the exotic thrill of eating fugu, that deadly blowfish, from which one bite of its liver will kill you within minutes – Uncle B’s liver has to be at least that toxic! And all of those empty carbs from alcohol have not gone to waste – Uncle B is calorie rich, and pre-marinated.

You simply have to eat Uncle B.

I can just hear my cousin Sherry, “Wow, it sort of bites the tongue a little, like it has pepper in it.” “That’s the carcinogens,” Grandma will say (Grandma always cooks, and you know she won’t let anyone else prepare her little brother B. My guess is she’ll roll him in corn-meal and flour and fry him in bacon fat, which is her preferred method of cooking everything. We are a happy family, proud of our LDL levels well into the 400s.)

Yes, our extended family will feast long and say great things about Uncle B. On this small island, everyone will take part, everyone will have a piece of B. It will be sweet, and good, and we will be honored to be a part of him.

So that’s your homework. On your family island … Who first?


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