Archive for the ‘Kapoho Christmas’ Category

Before my mother had Alzheimer’s, we had a ritual. Every Christmas I walked into the house with a gift to myself…a new outfit, a pair of shoes or some jewelry and every year, this was our conversation:

Me: Do you want to give me this for Christmas?

Mother: Sure. How much?

Whatever price I gave, she said, “Only that much? You have a good job and you can’t even pay for your own present? “ ( I was a teacher, she packed flowers at a farm).

When I took the cash from her, ( she always had cash) she would always say, “You not shame to take money from your poor mother?”

Me: No, no shame. Thank you.

Mother chuckles.

She has been gone for 16 years now and every Christmas, I have had a Christmas gift from her. This year, she was really generous and got me my first  Dooney  and Bourke handbag! Still waiting to get reimbursement  from above.


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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






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