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Eh Auntie

If ever you’ve been called old or elderly by the young, there is something precious awaiting you in Hawaii. If you’re lucky, a young local man or woman will address you as “Eh, Auntie.” To be called “Eh, Auntie” takes a lifetime of processing to truly understand its underlying gift.

Remember the horror of being offered senior discounts when you were still in your 40’s or 50’s? I remember feeling such indignities when teenagers called me “Ma’am” in Michigan when I was still in my 30’s, not realizing it was an address of respect.  Kindergarteners used to call me “Mommy” by mistake  when I first started out as a teacher. That was fine until “Mommy” gradually turned into “Grandma.” Students are that special breed of people who forever keep you young. A sixth grader told me, “Please don’t wear that, you look like my grandma,’ pointing to the pair of eye glasses hanging around my neck. I quickly put my glasses on my head without the strap. When you’re young by numbers, you tend to fall and be captured  into the Culture of Youth.

Recently in Hawaii,  I was returning my shopping cart to the market when a young local man called, “Eh, Auntie, I’ll take that for you.” And he returned the cart for me. Once at Honolulu airport, a local man stopped me from getting a luggage cart with, “Eh Auntie, save your money. Here, use my cart.” He helped to load my luggage on to my cart. Once again, at the busy Honolulu airport, I stood in the way of someone wheeling a customer for early boarding. She whispered to me from the back, “Auntie, excuse me, can you let us pass? Mahalo, Auntie.” “Auntie” turned her request into such a gentle one. A friend in Hilo shared the following: She took a car load of trash to the local rubbish dump. A local man approached her with, “Eh Aunty, leave ‘um, I’ll take care of that for you,” and he unloaded her trunk of all the trash. When she thanked him, he nonchalantly explained, ‘No worry, Auntie. We take care of our elders.”

For the first time, “Eh Auntie” came to mean what it has always meant in Hawaii, the true Aloha spirit, genuine, untouched, unsophisticated, and real.  Each time someone approaches me with “Eh , Auntie,”  I know I am being cared for, recognized as someone who may need someone’s hand, am part of humanity and more than anything else, I have returned home to the islands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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