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Pakalaki Memories

Kirby Wright

My Moloka‘i grandmother rarely visited Oahu. "Pakalaki memories," she said. Gramma spoke a type of creole common on Moloka‘i, a southern-like dialect interspersed with Hawaiian words. Returning to the island of her youth made Gramma feel defeated because it was where two men had deserted her. One of those men, a blond named Wilkins, would have been my grandfather if he had stuck around. His London parents had decided to pay for his travels during The Great War so he wouldn‘t die fighting for his country. Wilkins met my grandmother at Ala Park in Honolulu, where she was a chorus girl for the Ziegfield Follies. He handed her a bouquet of roses when she hopped off the stage—he told her she was more exotic than any girl in England. Two weeks later, they were engaged. But my grandmother‘s hapa haole looks were not enough to keep Wilkins in the islands—after he found out she was pregnant, he was on the next steamer bound for San Francisco. My father was born a bastard the first day of world peace.

The second man who left Gramma was Danford, a Portuguese longshoreman she'd met during her brother Sharkey's bootleg fight at Kapiolani Park.

She had Wilkins' baby but Danford still dated her. When Danford got her pregnant, he told her he wasn't going to marry a girl who already had a bastard son.


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