For two days, Maui has been my playground. Lingering clouds, majestic mountains, tall trees swaying in the breeze, one can’t help but look up, especially in a place that is unfamiliar.
I’ve been to Maui before, but only for day trips and minutes from the airport. This time, I decided to do a last minute getaway, hoping to cure myself of jetlag from my recent trip to Japan, but also to reconnect with my genealogy. Using frequent flyer miles and taking advantage of last minute deals for lodging and ground transportation, I was on a plane yesterday morning, excited to develop a different relationship with Maui.
My Native Hawaiian great-grandmother hails from Makawao. More specifically, she was born and raised in Ulupalakua. Each time I’ve spent time in Maui, I never left the Kahului city limits, so this time, I strayed off the beaten path to spend most of my time here in Makawao and to find ways to reconnect to her. You see, I know very little about my great-grandmother. She passed away the year my dad was born and everyone else who knew her, has also passed on. Those people mentioned her quiet and loving disposition, but no one thought to ask her about her childhood. It just wasn’t something you did back then, so we have very little to go on. Additionally, things weren’t written down and recorded as they are now.
One thing I do know is that she was the last mānaleo in our family. A mānaleo is someone whose first language is the native language, and since then, two generations later, Hawaiian is being spoken in our family again. Although Hawaiian is a second language for me, I learned it to feel closer to her, and on this trip, I hoped that I could feel even closer to her, to perhaps stand in places she once did.
I went to the face-lifted historic town of Makawao, where perhaps she frequented, to Ulupalakua where she might have run as a child. Driving down winding roads and walking around in these so-called new places didn’t seem so strange. They each reminded me of my own childhood on Kauaʻi, where twisting roads and old buildings were common. Despite the sexily renovated store fronts and bustling tourists in Makawao, I can imagine the old and what it might have been like at the turn of the century when my great-grandmother lived there as a young child, before she married by great-grandfather at the tender age of 17.
This trip has been a journey into the roots of my family. Determined to “look up” my great-grandmother, when I arrived in Ulupalakua, a gentle breeze greeted me, kissing my cheek when I stepped out of the car. I threw my head back and turned my gaze up to the sky when the coolness of the breeze hit my face, and I felt at peace. No, I felt at home.
Grandma Lucy, I’m here.