Time Traveling Through Family Memories

What’s in Mrs. Hale’s Receipts for the Million 1857?

686. To make Red Sealing Wax.– To every ounce of shall-lac take half an ounce each of resin and vermillion, all reduced to a fine powered. Melt them over a moderate fire; and when thoroughly incorporated and sufficiently cool, form the composition into what are called sticks. On account of the dearness of shellac, seed-lac is usually substituted. A more ordinary sort, but sufficiently good for most occasions, may be made by mixing equal parts of resin and shell-lac with two parts of red lead and one of vermillion. In a still commoner sort, the vermillion is often entirely omitted.

Time Traveling

I’ve been on a time travel trip of sort, traveling back to the place where my grown-up life and the life of my family all began: Honolulu. I came out here in 1969 on a one-way ticket. Hawaii was going through a building boom, but it was still a small town bustling with soldiers and sailors on R & R from the Vietnam War and co-eds trying out the beaches for the summer. It was all exotic and even after school in France two years before, a totally different experience for me. Back then my letters went home regularly with the occasional long distance phone call. Sometimes my letters were sealed with sealing wax. (I always thought it so romantic.)

It’s funny how a place can grow on you. I met true love here and learned a thing or two, like a BFA in weaving and textiles that put me under the wing of Ruthadell Anderson, who had just finished monumental weavings for the Hawaii State Capital Building. As her apprentice, I wove and constructed pieces  for a hotel in Saipan. I also became a guide at Mission Houses Museum, falling in love with museum work and kids, something I continue to do. I hiked Haleakula Crater twice, got married in Hilo and had my first boy there. Then we moved away to the Mainland.

Family Stories Lead and Guide

Forward to over 40 years later. I’m here for the graduation of one of my sons from the University of Hawaii, my old alma mater. This is my fourth trip in seven years and each time I come I look for the places I loved and never left my heart. I was surprised when my son said he wanted to come out here and go to school, but then I remembered how my mother’s own stories of growing up in Idaho guided me west to Washington State where I have lived for many years now.

Coming back out has been both a healing adventure after losing my husband ten years ago and a discovery adventure. Coming back out for this important family event has also brought everything full circle. I’ve reacquainted myself with Mission Houses Museum and made new friends at Iolani Palace. I spoke to Ruthadell Anderson two years ago and told her how my experience as one of her apprentices was a highlight of my life. I’ve discovered nooks to write in here in Honolulu and revisited old haunts. Yesterday, two of my boys hiked up to Manoa Falls, the first hike I ever did with their father. Last Monday, I returned to Haleakula Crater and looked into the maw I crossed so long ago.  And found some new stories about the place I KNOW I’m going to research and write about.

I’m so grateful that my mother kept my letters that I wrote home to them when I first came here. They are my journal entries  and will be the foundation of the memoir pieces that I will write for my sons, as a way to remember and tell the story of our family history.

How do you time travel when you write your family’s stories?


3 thoughts on “Time Traveling Through Family Memories

  1. Nice blog, Janet. Strange, but my first trip to Hawaii was in 1969. I fell in love with the islands and it’s still one of my favorite places on the globe.

    So glad you have had this wonderful opportunity to relive your youth with your son.

  2. A gorgeous blog post, Janet. I just saw The Descendents last night and then dreamed of Hawaii…such a beautiful place. I will have to catch you up, as well, on what’s going on with my family’s farm in Washington.

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