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‘OHANA

Monday, November 29, 2010

I sat down to write a post about something completely different today.

But sometimes I have to honor that “burning” that I get in my gut.

No–it’s not an ulcer!

It’s that little feeling that says “write about ME today.”

It doesn’t happen very often. And as Pops would say, “You’ve got to trust your na’au (gut).”

I can’t stop thinking about FAMILY. ‘OHANA.

This past week, I spent some time with my family–the one that I was born into. We are such creatures of habit! We fell back into our old roles immediately. I’m the “teenager”–lurking on the fringe. Only this time I wasn’t the depressed teen who loved wearing a black trench coat. Instead, I was wearing Aloha shirts and strumming an ʻukulele. ( A different kind of fringe, indeed!) My sister will forever be the “kid sister” in my eyes–even though she’s now a mother of two and a strong woman. We love each other dearly–and still like to spar from time to time. My parents tried their best to coordinate everyone’s schedules and made sure we were all well-fed and managed to get to sleep at a decent hour. It was just like old times. Only there are additions to the families now… partners, significant others, children.

The herd gets bigger.

And instead of love being stretched thinner to accommodate the newbies, it multiplies with every new addition. How is that possible?

And…

Over the course of the weekend, we all made phone calls to the “family” that have been added–though not through blood or marriage.

You know–those wonderful people that have come into our lives and are, in the truest sense of the word, family. For instance, I played multiple rounds of “phone tag” with Pops. He’s my teacher, but he’s also like another father. And Mom Solatorio is like another mom. How lucky can a guy be to have so many cool “parental units?!”

Ishowed my niece and nephew photos from my recent trip to Molokai–naming everyone that was captured on film.

“And this is my hānai sister, Kolo, ” I said pointing to a photo.

My niece’s eyes grew wider. “Wait… SHE’S your sister, too?” she asked.

“Yes… but it’s kind of hard to explain.” How does one begin to explain the concept of “hānai” to another person–especially to an eight year old? I’m still learning about it and trying to understand it, too!

“She’s LIKE my sister in every way–except we have different parents,” I said. Thankfully, that answer seemed to satisfy her. At least for the time being.

And…

Earlier today I was talking to a friend I haven’t seen in years.

I met Michael when he interviewed me for his radio show. (A GREAT radio show, by the way. And you can stream it on the internet, too! Click HERE for more information.) We hit it off and became “buddies” immediately.

It’s been years since I’ve seen him (and maybe a year since we’ve even spoken!), but when he answered the phone today, it was like we picked up the conversation right where we’d left off. No strangeness. No feelings of “Hello, my name is…” We connected right away because we’re family.

And…

Tonight I’ll be strumming and singing for some of my hula family here in NYC.

I have the privilege of playing for these folks every week. (And I’ve been dancing with them, too!) We come together as family. We laugh together. We cry together. We celebrate each other’s victories. Sometimes we bang heads. But we’re family. It’s ok.

I remember hearing the old expression “You can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family.”

I don’t think that’s necessarily true. I think we’re born into a family and then we keep adding. And adding. And adding.

This is NOT an exhaustive post about family.

Mary Kawena Pukui and E.S. Craighill Handy wrote an entire book called THE POLYNESIAN FAMILY SYSTEM IN KAU. That’s a whole book about the Polynesian family system in ONE DISTRICT on the island of Hawaiʻi. A whole book!

This post is just a teaser. It’s not even scratching the surface! I like to think of it as the slightest “tickling of the surface.” Ah, this is rich subject matter, indeed.

After a week of hanging out with my family, this is what’s dancing around in my head. I feel blessed to have such a wonderful and diverse crew as my ʻohana.

What are some of YOUR thoughts about family? I’d love to hear from you!

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