Friday, January 12, 2018

How Alexis Came Into Existence

I'm now close to the wettest spot on Earth, but it's not raining. It is a bit chilly, though. Instead of enjoying the beautiful outdoors or taking advantage of the free music, I'm holed up in my room, under the covers of my bed. My parents would be thrilled to know that I spent thousands of dollars to travel to the tropics so that I could stay in bed all evening, but my stomach hurts, and besides, leisure is an individual thing.

Speaking of my parents, I've never shared the sequence of events that led to my existence. i may as well do so now.

My maternal grandmother succumbed to pancreatic cancer the the beginning of summer between my mom's junior and senior years of high school. Then my grandfather's home base as an airline pilot was moved from Nebraska to Hawaii shortly prior to the beginning of my mom's senior year of high school.  Her twin brother was attending an air force academy prep school near Colorado Springs, so he wasn't impacted by the move except that he would be flying to Hawaii instead of Nebraska for vacations -- a prospect that didn't exactly disappoint him. My mom was, predictably less than thrilled, though she recognized that there were worse places than Hawaii to which her father could have been transferred. They quickly packed up, moved briefly to a hotel until they could fuind a suitable house or apartment, and went about the process of finding an acceptable school for my mom.  She wasn't a great fit for any traditional school. Public schools in Hawaii tend to be rough, and the locals aren't typically fond of the white kids, who are referred to as haoles (pronouced howlies). It's not considered a term of endearment there.

As a high school senior my mom was a mere fifteen years old.  Because self-defense wasn't a particular forte for her, public school was off the table as an option. My grandfahter immediately began asking everyone he knew in the area about Catholic high schools. An airline executive who happened to be a trustee at an esteemed private school on the island of Oahu overheard the conversation and mentioned that he had connections with a high-quality private school. He explained that the school very rarely accepted  upper-classmen, but that he might be able to  pull a few strings on my mom's behalf if she scored well on the school's entrance exam.

Where self-defense was not my mom's forte, paper-to-pencil tests were a particular strength.  Her overall test scores were supposedly the highest the school had seen in several years. Once a few formalities were covered, she had scored an admission into what is arguably the most prestigious school in all of the Hawaiian islands . (People for the Kamehameha Schools would almost certainly dispute this.)  My mom finished her senior year with honors, then made her way back to the mainland to attend Stanford University, where she completed dual degree programs in music performance and mathematics. Following her stint at Stanford, she obtained a master's degree from U. C. Berkeley.

My mom completed her master's degree mid-year. Finding jobs isn't always easy in Decemeber and January.  When her former high school administrator called her and informed her of a need for a long-term substitute  at her high school alma mater, she jumped on the offer. She was able to live rent-free at her dad's apartment, and her dad  bought a reliable used car for her. Her teaching assignment was going well enough, though the night life left something to be desired.

Then a father of one of her students asked her about her performing experience. He owned a nghtclub in Waikiki, and needed entertainment four nights a week. The main issue was that my mom was as haole as haoles come, and the tourists who frequented the joint expexted someeone a bit more authentically Hawaiian.  A spray tan, a quick hair dye job, and a bit of practice at the local dialect later, my mom was transformed. By day, she was Miss Erin Fitzsimmons, the music teacher. By night, she was Kalani Kanama, the ukulele- and keyboad-playing singer and hula dancer.  She knew a lot of the songs she would need to sing just from her year in a Hawaiian high school and from her teaching assignment,  and the rest she learned as she went.  She was a hit, and attendance at the night club on the nights she worked rose steadily.

One night, someone in the audience requested the song "Hawaii Aloha."  It's not the usual night club fare, but one needs to please the audience. My mom explained that she would sing it, but that the song was best peformed with harmony. Up jumped a young man who insisted he knew the song and could sing it with her. He was cute, she said, so she took him up on the offer.  He even borrowed a guitar that belonged to a musician who would appear later and provided the accompaniment. Much to my mom's shock, he did actually know the song and, furthermore, was good. He sang a few more songs with her. By then, her set was finished. They went off for a late dinner.  The rest is history. They've been making either music or babies together ever since.

          "Hawaii Aloha" as performed by the Punahou graduating class of 2005.

No comments:

Post a Comment