Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Other Reunion

After months planning my own 50th-year-from-graduation reunion, and our celebratory weekend last month, this weekend it was my mother's turn.

Mother graduated from Kamehameha School for Girls in Honolulu in 1931.  That's 80 years ago.  That's before the Kapalama campus was opened.  In her day, the Girls Campus took up most of the makai (towards the ocean) block of King Street between Kalihi St. and Waiakamilo, across the street from the present-day Farrington High School.  She went to Kamehameha in 1925 as a 7th grader and boarding student.  It was a small, close-knit class.  Most remained lifetime friends.  Now there are only two from the class left:  Janet (Hopkins) Richards  in San Diego, and Helen (Yonge) Lind in Honolulu.  They are the oldest surviving graduates of Kamehameha Schools.  

See my brother's post, "Last Woman Standing?" 12 June 2011 for a short video of our mother talking about her experiences as a student at Kamehameha.  

The present-day campus is lovely and large.  It crawls up a high ridge in Kalihi Valley.  On a clear day, the view must be spectacular.  Yesterday, the campus was shrouded in rain clouds.  The Hawaiians say that when it rains, the gods are sending their blessings.  There were a lot of blessings given yesterday -- it poured most of the afternoon.  

I begged, pleaded for, finally demanded, accommodation from the Alumni Office to make it possible for my mother to enjoy the event.  They were quick to agree that we could have a reserved parking spot so she  didn't have far to walk to get where she needed to be.  Only after I asked did they agree that she could be shuttled up to the luau site in a Security Cart.  But they were hard-headed about pictures.  Even though they did not begin food service until 5:30 p.m., there was no way they could move her class photo from 2:30 p.m.  We finally had to call the Alumni office and opt out of the photo.  She simply does not have the stamina to arrive in time for a 2:30 photograph and then hang around until the program is over some time after 7 p.m.  

Enter the host class, Class of 1992.  If you are a 1992 graduate, if you know a 1992 graduate of Kamehameha Schools, if you know someone who knows someone -- let them know they did a masterful job.  The event was beautifully planned and executed.  But what made it special was their attitude.  They couldn't have been more gracious, more accommodating, more caring when dealing with their most senior surviving graduate.  Someone called my mother last Monday morning.  "We want you to have a photo taken," she said.  "Can you come at 4:30?"  Yes, she could do that.  

We arrived at the campus main entrance.  "I'm supposed to tell you we have reserved parking, and you would have someone show us where that is."  The guard waved us up the hill.  "Just follow the road to the top.  Someone will show you when you get there."   OK.  I'd never been on this campus before.  Gotta' trust.

Next guard, 1/2 mile or so up the road:  "Go up there, turn left, and pull in just before the tent."  
Found the tent.  By now it was really raining.  "Just park anywhere in there.  We'll come with the cart to take you up to the tent.   Oh, you need to take pictures?  I don't know if I can get the cart up there, but will do the best I can."  So I left my mother to the solicitous '92-er and trekked off on foot to find the photo venue.  There, a lovely young woman who identified herself as Kanani assured me that the electric cart could get to the front door of the photo room, they were expecting THE Class of '31 graduate, and that she would be next after the current class.  It didn't end up exactly that way, but did work out in a way that pleased my mother, and she did have her picture taken.  Along the way Kanani said, "If she cares enough to come, we'll do what ever we can to make her happy."  

The entire time we were on campus, Mother never went more than a few steps in her walker.  From the photo venue to her table in the tent over Konia Field, from her table back to the car, in the pouring rain, where ever she went she was transported in a little cart, usually with one or two men grinning broadly, listening attentively, treating her as if she were their own grandmother.  Someone brought her a coke while waiting for dinner.  The meals were all served by '92-ers.  They were still serving some of the younger classes when the first of the garbage collection crew appeared with their 30-gal bags.  "Pau? Let me take that for you."  

Mother said several times, almost wistfully, "All these people, and I don't see anyone I know."  This is a relatively new problem for her.  She's always been able to connect with someone in a crowd.  Despite its growth and influx of residents, Honolulu is still, socially, a very small town.  As the only person from your class in attendance, it was inevitable that there would not be many seated at her table.  But someone was there -- Mikihala, class of '36, who was Mother's little sister when Miki entered Kamehameha.  Classes of '41 and '46 were at the table behind us.  Then the school president, Mike Chun, stopped to greet her.  "You worked for the Rentons?" she asked.  "My daughter-in-law is a Renton.  And aren't you related to the Mossmans?"  Yes, his wife is a Mossman.  She a granddaughter of a friend of Mother's.  It wasn't such a group of strangers after all.  

Give thanks for those who practice the Hawaiian custom of honoring our elders, our kupuna.   Give thanks for those from Kamehameha Schools Class of '92 who yesterday treated an aged stranger with such care and consideration. 
Don't forget to pray!


  1. Aww, that's the sweetest story. :) You made my day. Hugs to your Mom too!

  2. I know this is an old post now, but I followed your brother's link to your site tonight and then got to reading. I am enjoying your blog!

    My grandmother Martha Bradley (her married name was Lang) graduated from Kamehameha School for Girls in 1929. Perhaps those two knew each other. How nice that you have had so many years with your mother (my dear grandmother, to whom I was very close, died in 1998).

    However your mom's next chapter turns out, I hope it goes easily and well for all of you.


Your comments remind me that I am not writing into a vaccuum, or simply for personal therapy. Please comment often!