A Kapoho Christmas


It was Christmas without lights.

It was Christmas without indoor plumbing.

It was Christmas without carolers at the window

Muffed and warm under falling snow.


But there was Christmas.


A Christmas program at school

Where the Holy Night reenacted:

White tissue paper glued on spines of coconut  fronds

Shaped as angel wings and halos.

Long white robes, over bare feet.


Santa Claus with bagfuls of hard mixed candies

Ho ho hoed by the plantation manager,

His yearly holiday role in the village where he reigned.

Fathers  in Sunday best

After a hard day’s work in sugar cane fields.

Children in home-sewn dresses and shirts.


A fir tree from the hills,

Needles not lasting 24 hours.

Chains from construction paper,

Origami balls and strands of tin-foiled tinsel.

Kerosene  and gas lamps

Moving shadows on the walls.


It was not the Christmas of my dreams.

No carolers at the window,

Singing Silent Night, Holy Night.

No large presents under a real Christmas tree

No fireplaces and rooftop chimneys.

No blue-eyed  boy handing me hot chocolate.


For 18 years, the true Christmas

Lived in my head until Fire Goddess Pele

Came to my rescue

From the depths of

Kilauea Volcano

And buried our kerosene lamps.


Finally, I said, without a backward glance,

Running out fast in bare feet

On unpaved roads

To the Christmas of my dreams.



Frances Kakugawa

Forthcoming in the new edition of my Kapoho book







December 7

Under the rising sun

The enemy came

Wearing my face.

And my face was changed forever.

Let us not repeat this part of history ever again.

Island Memoirs: The Days of Our Youth

island memoirs photo


I have a perfect idea for a Christmas gift(s):

Watermark Publishing of Hawai’i just released Island Memoirs: The Days of Our Youth.

I’m highly honored the book opens and ends with two of my stories –“Eh, You Tink You Haole?” and “Once There was a Kapoho.” But more importantly, sandwiched between my two stories are the true treasures told by the people who have made the news in Hawaii – their first –person coming of age stories in the 20th century. Be prepared to pick up your own pen to write and preserve your own stories as you laugh, cry, and feel so very deeply about Hawai’i’s history and yours.

Stories are told by:

Don Ho, Ben Cayetano, Tom Moffat, Dan Akaka, Dick Tomey, Eddie Sherman, Walter Dods, Freddie Letuli, Yasushi Kurisu, Fred Hemmings, Roy Kodani, Makia Malo, Sam King, Henry Nalaielua, Gentleman Ed Francis, Ted Tsukiyama and yours truly.

In lieu of royalties, the contributors have agreed that their share of the book sales should be donated to benefit aio Foundation, a non-profit organization that develops empowerment programs for Hawai’i’s youth, including the Kahauiki Village affordable housing community for homeless families.

To order Island Memoirs: priced at $24.95:

A special 30% discount is given to authors and their friends and families if ordered until the end of the year. Use code IMCONTRIB at Watermark’s website. Orders using this code will receive free shipping.

Pre-order on Watermark’s website: www.bookshawaii.net.Or you can give Dawn of Watermark a call at 808-534-7170.

Thank you, folks.







In NYC, a Lyft ride cost me $43. Same return trip, in a regular cab cost me $18.
Used Riverside Co.

I compared prices between Lyft and a regular cab to airport and Lyft was far more pricey.

One regular cab driver turned the meter off by explaining “traffic is bad, I will not use meter.” Fare was so low I tipped him heavily; he God blessed me.

A NYC local explained that on rainy and snowy days, Uber and Lyft will charge over 100%.

A friend was charged $50 in Boston using Uber, same return trip in a regular cab was less than $20.

In Sacramento, a person on Uber was charged $20 to the Arena, return trip was tripled. They must know one is eager to go home late at night, especially if fare is a woman.

I was so pleased to see the yellow cabs in full force in NYC.

Why We Teach

Thank you, Melinda, Mary and Carmen of Brookdale National Respite and RAPP for inviting me to give a workshop and to address  your conference held in New Jersey. One of the high lights was…

I stepped down from the stage, sat on one of the chairs in the front row and something  made me look behind me.  “Teresa?” I asked the woman sitting behind me.

teresa & me

Yes. It was Teresa Ainsworth Todd of Maryland who had driven in to see me. I last saw Teresa when she was a first grader in my class in Jackson, Michigan more than 50 years ago. She wore the same face during my year in Michigan. Teresa was thrilled to have a teacher from Hawaii and every day, she looked at me with such joy and delight. I had to be the best teacher ever.

We shared stories at the conference: I brought in Hawaii and my Japanese culture into the classroom. One day I told the class  we were using chopsticks so to bring in a snack. Teresa’s mother wisely sent her in with a  bag of popcorn, explaining that it would be less messy should she drop her snack on the floor.

Teresa still has that photo of her dressed in a kimono. And here she was, the same Teresa with the special smile.

And yes, I have taught more than a thousand students and I claim to remember each by name.

Dear New Jersey,

Are you ready for me? The last time I was there, I walked the Boardwalk, singing “Here She Is, Miss America” softly to myself. Remember when?  I’ll be giving an address on Respite Care and a workshop for RAPP (Relatives as Parents Program) at the National Brookdale Respite and RAPP conference in Teaneck. I’m on my way so start pulling out the red carpet where the boardwalk used to be….

Seven year old Kollin was given my Wordsworth the Poet book and according to his mother, he kept rereading the book. You see, Kollin has Wordsworth inside him, too, because he wants to be an artist someday. Not a fiction artist, he said, but a non-fiction one where he will draw nature. One day his uncles took him shopping with “Buy anything you want.” Kollin chose a tablet and a box of crayons. His uncles told his mother, “Hey, something wrong with your son, we expected to buy him all kinds of electronic games but he only chose this paper and crayons.”


This is his book report on Wordsworth the Poet: He used a pumpkin to reproduce Wordsworth.

No wonder Kollin feels so connected to Wordsworth. I have offered to visit his class as Share and Tell and perhaps help release the little poets inside each child.

A generation ago, Kollin’s uncle had the same dream but his immigrant Hmong parents told him this is not why they came to America…he needs to let go his artist dreams and get a real job and he did.

4 WordsworthBooks