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  • Valerie Hope

Ep. 35 - Not Quite Strangers: Aloha Culture, Childhood In The Military, And Their Rainbow Children


Not Quite Strangers | Rainbow Children


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Not Quite Strangers: Aloha Culture, Childhood In The Military, And Their Rainbow Children


Let's start with Marci. Marci, what did you bring?

 

I brought my ukulele.

 

I have a ukulele too.

 

You can't see it from here. Back there somewhere.

 

You know, better. How do you say it?

 

Ukulele.

 

Ukulele. I think my mom got it for my 10th birthday or 10th Christmas.

 

10th Christmas.

 

I had the $20 version of a ukulele that I got pretty soon after we moved there. I was pretty dedicated and learned all the chords and was playing songs, and they always had the kamakas at school, then my mom got this one. She got it as a second stone at the factory in Honolulu.

 

Cool. Hang on to that thought. We're not giving too much yet and we're going to come back to that in a second. Let me hear from Prudence. Prudence, what did you bring? 

 

I brought a Hawaiian legend.

 

Hawaiian legend. Okay, we're going to hear the Hawaiian legend live. Is this something you wrote?

 

Yes.

 

I forgot to turn my phone off. That's the other thing we should do is make sure that we silence our phones. All right. There you have it. You have probably heard some hints of what we're going to be talking about here because we have a ukulele and we have Hawaiian legend. I have brought together two of my childhood friends from Hawaii. For those of you who are joining us, this is a show called Not Quite Strangers. My name is Valerie Hope. I am your host. I'm so excited because every time we have an episode, I bring together two people who do not know one another.

 

In this case, Marci and Prudence met ten minutes ago when we first started. They have an opportunity to share information, share experiences, that hopefully will inspire curiosity, build a connection, and disrupt the status quo, what it means to learn and know more about a stranger. Now, because I love this show so much, and I think all of you who watch it and follow it well, too, I want to make sure that you subscribe, and you don't miss a single episode. If you go to NotQuiteStrangers.com, you can register here and receive a notification anytime we have a new episode posted.

 

You can also go to the YouTube channel and subscribe. They are on YouTube. You'll get notified when we have a new episode. You also get extra special invitations, if you subscribe. Now, for my two guests of honor. I don't know what inspired me. Several years ago, I reached out to the two of you on Facebook. I don't know maybe it was feeling nostalgic or something and like, “I remember this person.” Marci, you and I were in seventh and eighth grade together because both of our fathers were in the military. Yours, I think was in the Air Force, and mine at the Army station in Hawaii. We went to Wheeler Intermediate School, then Prudence happened to be my neighbor who lives out back.

 

Your home was in our back, behind us. My younger brothers played with your brother Mitchell, and then you and I also were friends. We didn't go to the same school, but we spent a lot of time hanging out. I thought how cool would it be to have two people who were both parts of my childhood. This is probably about as far as I go in childhood friends, if you will, come together especially because all three of us are military brats, all three of us were stationed in Hawaii at the same time, and maybe have some things in that experience. That would be cool to share. Thank you for saying yes to me on the show.

 

We’ll come for you.

 

So kind. Before we get into the objects, one thing I'm curious about, and I don't remember a moment, but was there a moment that you remember when the two of us met? Was there a moment? Marci, I know you and I played the clarinet and band. I know I imagined, did we sit next to each other?

 

Maybe. I think you were better than me though. You were probably first or second chair.

 

I strongly doubt that. Thanks for the generous thought. How did we know each other? How did you meet?

 

I'm trying to remember. Did you go to Wheeler Elementary as well?

 

I did.

 

We might have known each other sooner, but I was looking for my class pictures. We for sure were not in the same class for sixth grade. We could have been seeing each other around the school.

 

That was their fifth through eighth grade. It wasn't Wigler training. We were in Mayday together or something I think.

 

Probably so. Were you one of the island princesses they did in that thing?

 

No, I was not a princess.

 

It sounds funny.

 

We did have, I don't know, Prudence you might have had your own experience, but we used to have this so May Day. May 1st was a big deal. We'd have a queen and king maybe, a May Day, and then we learn a routine. I don't remember the name of the song right now. We learned a whole dance routine. I don't remember the name of the song right now. Marci, you knew the song. What was the name? 

 

It was Nobody's Going to Break My Stride. I forget who sings that or what group it is. We all had matching colored headbands and wristbands. I think it must have been an Olympic year or something because every class has the color of one of the rings. There was something about that which I remember.

 

You remember a lot more than I do. I have no idea. Prudence, one thing I remember about you. I don't know if you remember this. You hosted my first-ever sleepover, like my first-ever slumber party. 

 

You were miserable. I do remember. That was a painful memory, Valerie.

 

I was miserable?

 

Yeah, you stayed downstairs the whole time.

 

I was talking to your mom. I did. I remember this one. There's an age difference though. How old?

 

Forty-seven.

 

Forty-seven or forty-eighth. It’s not that big of a difference. I was trying to remember what was it. I've always liked to talk to adults. My mom has told me this since I was a child, don't take it personally. I do remember, you are the first girl that I remember wearing long, dangly earrings and makeup. That was like eleven years, twelve years old, or however old we were. It was like, she's wearing makeup and earrings. You seem so sophisticated. That's what you were probably talking about with the other girls or probably loud and I was like, I have three brothers. I don't talk about makeup and jewelry.

 

I was racking my brain trying to think how we met because as far as I can recall, you are not an outdoor person. It wasn’t that by chance I would see you at the swingset or something.

 

That was my brother's stuff. It's probably because of our brothers. They used to play soccer and all that stuff right in the park. 

 

I did tell my husband this. I make him listen to all my prep thoughts. I'm not sure why he listens. I told him that you were my first friend that I knew that read.

 

That read?

 

Yeah, books, for fun.

 

Really?

 

I have read all my life. I've never met anyone who read and you're the first friend that I had that actually read?

 

What was the significance of that for you at that time?

 

I guess you'll sort of always feel like when you're in the military that you don't belong to the place that you're at, like the physical location. It's not like when you buy your own home and you plant your garden and stuff. it's a temporary space. You sort of feel like you're not rooted anywhere. That was an activity that I did all by myself to meet someone who did that same activity and was like, “Really?”

 

When you're in the military, you sometimes feel like you don't really belong to the place that you're at.

That's fascinating. I had no idea. I like to read here so fascinating. I got it. Prudence, what school did you go to, elementary and middle school?

 

I went to Wheeler Elementary, but I went to Wahiawa Intermediate.

 

We went to elementary school together, all three of us.

 

No. Mine was sixth grade.

 

You were there sixth grade? I was already at intermediate school when you started elementary then. Marci, you and I are the same age. We were in the same grade the whole time.  Got it. Were you in Girl Scouts too Marci?

 

Yeah, I was.

 

I think that's another place where we may get to know each other. Although I have to admit, I didn't like Girl Scouts so much. I was such a tomboy. I was like, “We have to make candles and make brownies. Can we do cool stuff?” Because my brothers all make this little leather bracelet. They went to archery. We rode horses, and I was like, “I have a candle.” Marci, tell us about the ukulele. I'm curious. I don't know how much people know how integrated that is as part of all elementary school experiences.

 

Now that I've had kids go through elementary school, I know that every school has some instrument, they all do. Either the recorder or through their phone or something. In Hawaii, it was the ukulele. I think the first time I remember learning it in school was in fifth grade, then we also did it again in sixth grade. I had switched schools by then, but they did it then. My first introduction to it was my next-door neighbor. She taught me face to face, she would come over with her ukulele and teach me, and then when I bought the cheapy one, I was able to play with her. I thought I always liked it. I still remember some of the chords and a few songs and my mom, everyone convinced me to go Christmas caroling with it. It's fun.

 

We did play in school. Prudence, was that part of your experience too? 

 

Yes, I remember G seven and C seven up. That's as far as that went. I was not trying to play it outside of the fourth period. No.

 

You weren't sitting at the stairwell on the lanai.

 

Not at all.

 

One of the things I wanted to talk to the two of you about is all three of us were military brats and dependents. Our fathers were all in the military during our time there. Prudence, you already mentioned a little bit about not having the roots. You get to create your own. I'm curious about what you guys remember about your experience in Hawaii, specifically. I think compounded with the fact that you're in the military someplace temporary, you're also on an island so far away from the mainland, perhaps if you had other family or friends or so. What was that like? Whoever wants to start, it’s fine.

 

Do you want to go Prudence?

 

I'm a little bit different than you two because I still live here.

 

Marci, you go first then.

 

Initially, when I first moved there, it was pretty rough. I was culturally different, physically different. We were at a local school when we first moved there in Mililani. I was lightly bullied a lot in the first few weeks of school and I can't remember how long that went on. My mom could tell I was upset and not wanting to go to school. She finally talked to the teacher and that improved at least. I didn't have great friends at school, but at least I wasn't teased and bullied and all that.

 

A year after that, we moved on to the military base, and then we had to wait for housing to become available, then when we moved to the base’s house and went to the base’s elementary school. It was very different, all those kids were in the same boat, and there were different cultures and different backgrounds. Even though I was new, and felt new for a little bit, it didn't feel as intimidating to me because it was a situation that felt a little familiar.

 

Even with that, I think with the age span I was there, and probably you too, we got so much instruction on the culture of Hawaii. I liked learning about it. When I go back with my husband now, we'll be driving around and suddenly I'll see something that will trigger some random Hawaii and a factoid and I'll like to be off on this thing and he’s looking at me, like what? I loved the climate and the vegetation and all of that. I loved making stuff out of the flowers and all that, but it was initially a very rough move for me.

 

I totally get that. The bullying, what was that like? What light-duty bullying are you talking about? 

 

We had separate desks, but they put them together on a table. I moved in in the middle of the year. It was right around Thanksgiving that we moved there. The class had already been established, people already had their friends, and they stuck a desk at the end of one of those groups for mine. Every day, they would pull my desk away from the table, and then the teacher would come by and yell at me for moving my desk, “Why did you move your desk?” I didn't know how to advocate for myself and explain and then like a racist. If you’re doing jump rope, they'd say, “Come jump with us,” and I think, “This is great,” then they turn it fast until it was impossible to jump in. It wasn't like my life was in danger of bullying, but it made me sad and made me not want to be there.

 

That's tough. When we got there, I don't remember if it was the beginning of the year. The two of you have so many details about that time in life. I do remember coming in. I'm tall. For a fifth grader, I was so tall. I think I was taller than my teacher. I must have come in at the beginning of the school year as well or not the beginning, in the middle because I remember the first day coming into class and people were already in the class. It wasn't like registering for school or any of that.

 

I remember the first recess, or one of the first recesses or whatever we that week, or something, everybody would go to using these bars, remember those parallel bars. That was a thing. Everybody knew how to use the bars and was doing all sorts of flips and penny drops. First of all, I'm so tall, much bigger than everybody else. I don't even have the upper body strength to pull all of my body. I remember another girl who was not as tall, maybe a tad shorter than I was, was recruiting me to be a bully.

 

I was so glad to have friends and to have somebody to hang out with. She was like, “Why don't you come hang out with us for recess tomorrow?” I was like, “Cool. Sure.” We went and there were three of us, or three of them and me. They started making fun of other kids. I don't remember them doing anything egregious. I was like, “These are not nice girls.” I had to find a very sophisticated way not to ostracize myself but go, “These are not people I want to hang out with especially in school. They don't have a good reputation.” I don't remember what I did. I do remember, because of my size, being recruited to be a bully.


Not to you, Marci. I was always nice to you.

 

I have no memories of anything but kindness.

 

Good. One last thing. Marci, you live in Utah now. What part of Utah?

 

It's called Pleasant Grove. It's about 45 minutes south of Salt Lake. It's close to BYU if you are familiar with their campus.

 

Not tons. I've been to Park City. That is all I know.

 

That is not very far away. That's a 40-minute drive from my house.

 

Okay, got it. You're far removed from the islands. Prudence already teed it off, but she's still in the islands. Tell us a little bit about your experience, Prudence.

 

It was not until we moved to Hawaii. My dad was in the service before I was born, and he went to Vietnam. He did two tours and then he got out, he married my mom and I was born, then he decided to go into the Army. Hawaii was where I jumped off of. You move every three or four years, but that's where I had my jump off and my parents live in Washington State. I didn't learn that I was Hawaiian until I moved to Hawaii. It wasn't a thing. When you're on the military base, there are Black people, there are White people, there are Asian people, and there's a small pocket of Islanders. I think our parents find each other. When you're kids, you're on the same playground, you're in the same schools, and the same cafeteria and stuff. You don't notice that you're different until someone starts pointing it out.

 

When was that moment?

 

I remember someone asked me if I was Black or White. I was confused by that question because I do not look black, I do not look white. Those are the two choices. I was like, “Black maybe,” because my grandma was dark, and then my grandma had wavy hair. It's like, “She wouldn't be in the White category for sure. She must be in the Black category. I still didn't even know it was a thing until the eighth grade. I want to say her name because I held on to this all these years, but I won't do it.

 

You can say her first name.

 

Theresa.

 

That’s a very specific person in there.

 

I know. There was a group of people and they were talking. We were getting ready for homeroom. The bell didn't ring. I went up there. I was like, “What are you guys talking about?” They're like, “We're talking about Kamehameha school.” I was like, “What is that?” They're like, “That's a private school for only native Hawaiians.” I was like, “Cool. I'm a native Hawaiian.” They're like, “You're not.” I was like, “Yes, I am.” They're like, “No, you're not. You live on a military post. There's no way you can be Hawaiian.” I was bored with that argument.

 

At the end of the day, I walked past the office. I went inside, and they had the packets for supplies for the school on the counter. I went and grabbed it, then I brought it home, and they stuck it on the dining room table. My parents knew what that was, but I still had no idea. I insisted that I'm not Hawaiian and I am Hawaiian. We're going to show her that I can apply too. My parents were asking me all kinds of questions like, “How did you hear about this school?” I was like, “Some girls were talking in school.”

 

They're like, “What do you know about the schools.” I was like, “Nothing really, except for Hawaiians. I'm Hawaiian, so I should apply,” then there's this testing that you had to go through that's intense, like the SAT. It's split apart in a full day and they feed you lunch. My grandma flew from Maui to Oahu to drive me to the testing site on the campus. I'm like, “This must be a big deal because my family is acting weird.”

 

My grandma was driving me and we're going up this hill. I was like, “Where are we going?” She was like, “The school, it's on the whole hill.” I was like, “What?” I went into the gymnasium. There were something like 600 students for each person, one slot that there is. I still don't know any of this. I read. I was good at the reading comprehension and grammar part. Not so hard at math, but I wasn't good at that at that part. I forgot about it, then I made it to the next round, which is the interview. My grandma flew again from Maui. I was like, “What is up with everyone here?” I guess they're trying not to make me nervous.

 

By flying in your grandmother from another island.

 

They were like, “We'll leave at 8:00 and then afterward, we'll get some McDonald's.” It was weird, then so I did the interview. It was a strange person. I've never been in an interview, but it was something like, “What are your life goals?”

 

How old are you? 

 

I was in the eighth grade. I have no life goal. I don't even know what those are. I do remember telling them a story about my name, how I got my name, my Hawaiian name. I think that was what got me in because I didn't have anything else that was special.

 

That's fascinating. You said before you even applied to this school, you knew that you were Hawaiian. That's why you told the other girl, but you didn't know you were Hawaiian at one other point. What was the moment that you learned, “I’m Hawaiian?” 

 

When I went home and asked my dad if I was Black or White?

 

That's where they were like, “You're Hawaiian.”

 

When I made it into the school, I still didn't know what it was, there were only two slots from Wahiawa. The entire Wahiawa complex which includes Schofield and Helemano areas. There are only two slots for my grade. Of those groups of people that were talking, it’s one of the girls and me, then they announced it on the PA, like in the morning when you're in homeroom. I was like, “I am Hawaiian in your face.” I took the whole thing. You have to submit your birth certificate, your parent's birth certificate, grandparents' birth certificates. You're vetted like you're going to FBI or something.

 

Pure Hawaiian. Now you live where?

 

Maui.

 

In Maui now. Fascinating.

 

I got married in ‘93 and then in ‘94, my parents got stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington. My mom was like, “Do you guys want to move with us?” She asked my husband and he was like, “Up to you.” He's not a person who would farewell without this island, without avoiding the culture and the way that people talk. I knew that he'd be lost. I'm like, “We'll stay here.” They moved, and then he got into the fire department. He tested for Maui County and he got in from Maui County. That's why I moved here.

 

Maui it is all the way. One thing I so appreciate about my time in Hawaii, I was involved with so many different groups of people. Marci, I don't know if you and I hung out during recess or anything, but there were very diverse groups of people in at least and I remember this in middle school. I have a group of people that hang out with at the beginning of the day, during the break, and maybe at lunchtime, and it is always different. I don't know. For some reason I remember always wanting to be in different cliques, I guess. I didn't want to be in the same one.

 

Sometimes it was lonely because I'd come back the next day and like, “Did you hear what Marci said yesterday?” I was like, “That was at lunch. I don't hang out with you guys at lunch. What happened?” Things like that happened a lot. I remember feeling like, I think you mentioned this, Marci, enriched by the culture. I learned so much about the history, many of our teachers whether Hawaiian or Japanese, and several generations living in Hawaii. It was fascinating. I loved the history of Hawaii. That's probably the only time you will ever hear me say love and history in the same sentence. I remember my teacher's name was Mr. Chica Salwa. I remember Mr. Chica Sawah, my history teacher.

Not Quite Strangers | Rainbow Children
Rainbow Children: I just remember feeling really enriched by the culture. I learned so much about the history.

I remember a Mr. Chica Sawah.

 

I believe he was a history teacher. We watched the movie Hawaii in class. James Michener’s Hawaii. It made such a deep impression that the islands were colonized by another group of Europeans who thought that this was what needed to be imposed on these particular islands. I remember that shifted my perspective and had a very strong reaction against that colonization. I don't remember it mattering up to that time. You've heard about colonization in a lot of other places, but I remember going, “This is such a beautiful history and such a beautiful place. What? You did what?” I was so outraged, but I remember caring and probably cared more.

 

When we moved to Alabama, I didn't necessarily have the same level of care. I was quite shocked. I was in shock a lot in Alabama, coming from Hawaii to Alabama. I didn't know I was Black until I moved to Alabama. Let me say that. You knew you were Hawaiian when you were in Hawaii. I did not know I was Black until I left Hawaii.

 

I didn’t know I was White too until I moved to Hawaii.

 

What?

 

Say more about that.

 

Like with the bullying, that was part with the freckles and my posture was different. I was louder than they were. That's how we were, so same thing.

 

What did you come to terms with at that moment? You learn that you were wide and you were different, and you look different, you carried yourself differently. What did that mean for you when you discovered that? What did that mean about you?

 

I wasn't sure how to handle it. I mean simple things, and I don't know if so much of it is in my fourth-grade mind trying to make sense of it. I don't know if so much of it was Hawaiian, or if it was the different Asian cultures that lived in Mililani. Something as simple as blowing your nose. I had always been okay to blow my nose in public. You were discreet as much as you could, but I don't know if it was part of the bullying thing with me or if it was offensive in the culture, but I would blow my nose and everybody would be completely disgusted. I'm blowing my nose. I thought that was okay.

 

Such a simple thing like that and it got to where I didn't even know what things were okay to do anymore. I had to relearn how to mesh into that. Luckily for me, for some reason, when I was bored because I had no friends I had been playing with one of my mom's candles and it was this wax that you could squish it and somehow I shaved crayons and so had all these fun colors. I took it to school and I was playing with it. All of these people who like to be mean to me were fascinated with it. That was the only way I could have anybody want to be nice to me was that I would let them squish this wax if they were not being good to me so I went home and I picked the wax out of all my mom's candles and I had that with me so that I can make lots of friends.

 

To reward the people who didn't bully you. Did you get a wax? Do you get some wax? Before we turn the corner, I wanted to change to another topic but since we're talking about Hawaii, you brought a legend, Prudence. I want to hear the legend. I feel like we've kept us in suspense now. Tell us what is this legend.

 

Do you guys know what the taro plant is?

 

To make coy out of it, yeah. 

 

Yes. Okay, good. See? I knew you guys both would know this. That's why I'm like, “They're going to be interested in this. I know it.” Wakea the Sky and Papa the Earth came together and born Ho’ohokukalani the Stars. Wakea the Sky and Ho’ohokukalani the Stars came together and born the Kalo plant. It was a root and then was cast to the Earth. Ho’ohokukalani the Stars and Wakea the Sky came together again. This child was born, man, and the man was cast to the Earth to take care of his brother, the Kalo plant.

 

As long as man takes care of Kalo, the Kalo will take care of man. When you plant a Kalo, there's a stalk. You plant it in the dryland or wetland but you plant it in the earth. That stalk is called a Makua. That Makua means parent. All these little stocks will grow out at the bottom and the little stocks are called Keiki where you get the word children. The whole clump with the parent and the children is called an Oha. Where we get the word Oharu.

Not Quite Strangers | Rainbow Children
Rainbow Children: As long as man takes care of the hollow, the hollow will take care of man.

You're going to have to send me that if you haven't written it down. I know it is an oral tradition. 

 

That's why we picked it so you can practice from it.

 

Okay, fine. Apparently, the goddess Pele would strike us down if you were to print it or something, perhaps.

 

No, that's different.

 

That's beautiful. All of the family comes out of this, the joining of the heavens, the joining of the stars, and then the upkeep of the taro plant left to man. What a great metaphor for us to also take care of the Earth.

 

Yes, exactly.

 

I did want to shift gears a little bit because I think there's something about the two of you. It was interesting. Marci, I know you have two kids, three or four.

 

Four.

 

Okay, I missed that. Why did I think you only had two? Tell us how old are your children more or less.

 

My oldest daughter is 24, then my son is 21, then I have daughters who are 16 and 14.

 

You run the gamut, then Prudence you have four or five? Many kids? I don't know. Three? I'm so confused. Why did I think you had more? Tell us the spread.

 

My oldest daughter is 26. My middle son turned 20. He's got a full beard. We're like, “You can buy beer because I think you'll pass.” We're not the worst parents ever. I know. It's like, “Let's have fun with our kids.” My youngest daughter is 18. They're all adults. Parenting adults is hard. If they live in your house and you're like, “I'm the mom, you're the kids.” They're adults. They don't have to listen to what you say.

 

It is awful.

 

Why?

 

My son still lives at home, even though he's 21. We want to give him his adult space and treat him like an adult. The kid can't rinse a dish. I want to smack him with the pan. That is frustrating for me. When they live at home, you're aware of them not coming home at night or whatever, then you worry, “Is this a problem? Should I do something?” They think well, “If I wasn't living here, you wouldn't even know.” I'm like, “Exactly, I wouldn't know that I wouldn't worry. I wouldn't know that you weren't coming home.” It is different. I don't think I was prepared for this.

 

One of my actors in one of my shows. Actually, we should find out what each other does. I have no idea what you do. One of the actors in one of my shows had a great life. He owned a house, they had a property that they rented out. The wife was a realtor and he was very into arts and culture. They had three beautiful kids. The family owned a Tahitian dancing company. Everything was beautiful.

 

The oldest son was running the dance company. He met someone and they didn't like her. He was pressuring him to break up with her. They started using ultimatums, “If you're going to be with her, then you can't have that car. If you're going to be with her, I'm not going to give you extra money,” things like that. Finally, they're like, “Her or us,” and he picked her. The dad couldn't believe this because it was his whole life. He had been the person in charge.

 

He broke down in tears. He was depressed. He started buying all these self-help books. He realized that to be a parent of an adult son, you have to learn to let them be an adult. It didn't matter if he was making a mistake or not. That's his mistake to me. That's his life lesson. That's his walk with God. Anyway, he told me that and I was like, “What? No, my rules, my house,” then I remembered that. When my daughter was being huffy because it was the summer before college. I was like, “You have to do dishes. That's your chore, dishes.” She hated dishes, so she moved out. She moved out over dishes. I could not believe it. She convinced my husband to sign. This is becoming a long story. All you were like, “How many kids did you have?”

 

To be a parent of an adult son, you have to learn to let them be an adult.

Clearly, there's something unresolved about your relationship.

 

It’s the pandemic. By choice, I don't see anywhere, because our numbers are way too high. I haven't seen anyone. You guys are the lucky ones that got me.

 

Your social interaction. I can hear between the two of you that you've had to reconfigure some of your mindset around parenting adults and parenting your older children. My question initially was going to be about how moving around and having been in the military influenced how you parent your children. What are some of the values? I know moving wasn't always easy. We’re always the new kid someplace, having to pick up new ways of living and cultures. There are probably levels of maturity that we develop because of being able to do that. I'm curious about how that's influenced your parenting.

 

I'll answer that, but there was a sidestep. You can probably tell my walls are painted. Do you see?

 

Yeah, the green.

 

All my childhood, I lived in military housing, and you could never paint the walls, they always had to be white. This bothered me, and my parents loved that about military quarters because everything was white. I hated that. When I bought my house, and I remember when I got married, me and my husband would have all these goals that we needed. We're going to have ten kids, some of them are ridiculous. I told them, “When we buy a house, I want to paint the walls.”

 

That was the first thing. The second thing about parenting kids in the military is because we're Hawaiian and we stayed here, I had a whole self-identity thing with what it means to be Hawaiian, but you grew up in the military base. It’s like how you're talking about colonization and all of that military occupation in Hawaii, those aren't easy issues to navigate. I usually don't say anything like, “Do you have to occupy Hawaii? We have all the Hawaiians and they're protesting and that's fine.” That's not my protest. My protest is for the water, something that I could align with. My relationship with the military is way different than the society that I live in.

 

That's fascinating. It would be fair to say because we've benefited from it.

 

Exactly. My mom tells me, this is so funny, so my mom is White, but she's half White, half Japanese, but she doesn't know Japanese. She looks White. Every time I talk about issues, she's always like, “I like how you conveniently forget that you're White.” “Mom, nobody says that here.”

 

Although my first sleepover, I spent a lot of my time talking to your mom, I don't remember what you looked like. You might have to show me a picture later.

 

I wanted my kids to have a self-identity like what it is to be Hawaiian. Our number one parenting goal is that our kids become educated, they become rooted in the culture, and they become activists and advocates for our community. That is a successful child. They break your refrigerator, they break your washer. You got to do with that. Those are the three main things. That was our parenting style. They all speak Hawaiian.

 

Marci, what about you?

 

I was thinking, I don't know necessarily about specific parenting. Because of the moves, my sisters, I only had sisters, they always had automatic built-in friends. I think I expected my kids to have the same relationships with each other because that's how we were. I'm still close with all my sisters, we see each other. Two of them live right here by me. We see each other often. My other sister is in Arizona, and she's single, so she's more mobile to come up and visit us for holidays and things.

 

I always thought that they would be best buds the way that we were, that part of it was out of desperation that you're in a new place. You've always got your sister with you. What's funny is you mentioned the wall painting, Prudence. You can see I have two shades of blue behind me. Every room in my house has at least one wall painted in some fun outlandish color. Maybe that's why because I got so tired of the white walls. My mom maybe liked it too because she'll have me help her pick out paint. It will be two different shades of white. I'm like, “Why don't you go into the expense and the effort of masking and taping it and look the same, like this big effort to have two colors?

 

I was the actual opposite. I embrace the military lifestyle so much. I've lived here in Dallas for twenty years. This is the longest I've ever lived anywhere on the planet because we left and immigrated from Panama when I was nine. Twenty years living in this one place. I've lived in the same apartment for ten years, which is probably unheard of for the most part, the same complex for the whole twenty years I've been here, by the way.

 

I've traveled a lot so even after I graduated from high school, I went to the University of Alabama for college. After graduating there, I worked with an organization called Up with People. I lived out of a suitcase for five years of my life. I was always moving. I didn't have a space. I didn't have a car, I didn't have a lot of things. That military mentality has continued through my early adulthood. When I moved here and finally had a place, I was like, “Why mess with it?” It works. Never painted. I don't even know if I could paint the walls. I'm sure you can. I haven't even thought about it.

 

I moved about three different apartments since then. The same complex, but I've upgraded each time. I remember my sister-in-law at one point was like, “Valerie, you should put stuff on the wall. You've been here three years. Come on.” There's this, for me, a little bit of a detachment from the place, the structure, not the people. I've always felt connected with people that I don't think has changed. I think part of it is because of the military, that we had such a short period of time or like, “Make it work. You got two years to make friends, go,” or four years or however long you're stationed someplace.

 

I think detachment from the physical structure of where I live. if it weren't for my sister-in-law, you would not see any plants and furniture and any color. It would be this drab, functional chaos or something. It’s interesting. I wanted to bring up something else and I don't know how comfortable you guys are talking about it. You also have something in common because Marci, you married your daughter. Would you mind sharing a little bit about what that experience was like for you?

 

No, she did not marry her daughter. She married her daughter off.

 

I guess about two years ago, she told me that she was not attracted to men. It took me off guard because she had crushes and things. I was confused. We went through all that, and he met somebody who is an amazing person. They had to get married. Their wedding was a month and a half ago, and having a double wedding in Utah, we brought up all our insecurities, or are people going to think that I was parenting wrong? I didn't know how that would go down. Sadly, there have been some family members who have said things that haven't been awkward now to have relationships. Some of the fears were real.

 

For the most part, it was so beautiful to see them happy, to be a part of it, and to have so much of our family with us, and celebrate love and how happy they were. It was a busy few months to get that all put together. They said, “Mom, you don't have to do anything. We will plan the whole thing. Anyhow, I love both of them to death. It's two women that as far as I have never even planned a birthday party or anything, I did quite a bit for it. Fortunately, I had time to do it.

 

I started school this last spring. I thought I was going to go to school and learn and update some of my computer skills. I still use WordPerfect because I'm so good at it. I can do anything on Perfect. I have to update my computer set here. I enrolled in that class. It’s a one-year program. I started that and I went to class. I was all excited. I had my backpack and I got there and it was all high school students. After three days of doing so much busy work, I thought I was going to lose my mind. I called the school as I was leaving that day. I'm like, “What is that drop date that you have where you get your money back?” She's like, “That's today.” I was like, “I guess I'm not going to think about it. Send me the paperwork.”

 

Luckily, I had cleared a lot of time for school. I decided that what I did for the wedding was a one-year program at a tech school because I did their announcements. I think we're perfect for that for announcements. We did all of it. We had my daughter's in-laws come, and we all got together and we folded the announcements and put them in the envelopes. It was a great experience to do that together instead of going to a wedding.

 

The one thing I wasn't sure about and we've had a couple of conversations since then, or at least some chats. You're Mormon. How does that work in the Mormon faith? I have no judgment about that. I'm just curious. 

 

Things have gone different ways in how things have been handled. I know that as a church, they want to be very sensitive. In the current publications they have online, the knowledge that it is not unnecessary something that perhaps has control over. Whether they're that way or not, it's something that develops. They acknowledge that people have exhausted every effort to change that and cannot and recognize that it is what it is if people are gay or straight, then there are all of the other sexual orientations that are also in there. Since we're talking more about my daughter's relationship, I'll stick with that.

 

They acknowledged that it's not something that you can change about yourself. They encourage people to be understanding and loving with that person. Overall, they discourage relationships, especially marriage. What I've tried to interpret in there is that they would expect those individuals to live a celibate life and to find their fulfillment through their other relationships. Having that wedding did go against that. It was hard to know at the time how that would be received. I asked my daughter, “What do you want to do with your announcements? Do you want to send them out to everybody?” We've lived in the same house for eighteen years. Some of the same people have been here that whole time. When announcements go out, they go on every porch.

Not Quite Strangers | Rainbow Children
Rainbow Children: One’s gender is not something that you can change about yourself. Be understanding and loving with that person.

I said, “You didn’t have a lot of relationships with everybody here, how do you want to do that?” She's like, “Anybody that I worked with in the youth programs, anybody that I had relationships with,” and then certain people that she over the years had had conversations with. It wasn't like it went to everybody but to a lot of my neighbors, and I was blown away at the support. We had a line out the door for an hour and a half of people coming from both families to give them hugs and wish them well. I was touched, totally overwhelmed by that, especially to have my entire family be there and be a part of it and meet her. Her coworkers showed up too. It was a magical day. I did not expect it to be that wonderful. The next day my two daughters said, “I wish we could do it again. That was so cool.” I'm like, “No.”

 

Sounds like you raised a couple of activists as Prudence did. That's fascinating. Prudence, what about you? Anything to add or have any questions about that?

 

My oldest daughter is transgender, born male, but lives as a female. That was interesting because we knew that she was always different. We sat on these talks and my husband was like, “I think she might be gay.” We're like, “Okay, we know what that is. Alright.” That's, hard. When she came out as transgender, we didn't know what that was, then we went, online. We're trying to look for support groups in Hawaii. That wasn't a thing then. She was so unhappy. She didn't talk like she would only whisper. Everything about her was so sad.

 

I was like, “We have to do something. How do we turn this around?” Imagine being unhappy in your own body. It’s not like, “My arms are too flabby,” or “My butt is too big,” or whatever, but hating your body. I don't know how to fix that. We only had each other to talk to about it because we're like, “If we don't know, how do other people know?” Anyway, my husband has a transgender classmate. She lives on O’ahu. We flew over there. My husband called her and asked her if she would talk to our daughter and she said yes.

 

W met her out there and then had a good talk with her, then things took a turn after that, and she got a better shot. Hawaiians are religious people. We have an interesting relationship with religion and spirituality like they're not necessarily the same thing. Because religion is oftentimes very negative about the fact that people are on the rainbow, we decided we wanted to bless her house. We're trying to figure it out because of all this sadness and all this confusion, you could feel it in our house. We wanted to get rid of that.

 

We started looking for different people to come to bless our house. Most of them were church people, like Christian people, and we didn't want any negative attitudes toward being a rainbow child. We're like, “What are we going to do?” I was like, “Why can't we bless our own house? I mean, it's our house. Who's the best suited to put good intentions into the house? It's us.”We sat down. There are five of us. Each of us wrote a verse to this chant.

 

We did the four corners of our house, north, south, east, and west. We did it in each corner, then we ate the food to sanctify the ritual. It's on a TV, that's like fish, squid, taro, and the other one is sweet potato, then we ate that, and then we burned the tea leaves in the hole in the yard and burned it. We're like, “This belongs to us, this house, this family belongs to us, It does not belong to somebody else. We have a lot of religious family and friends. What I tell them is that couples walk with God as couples walk with God.

Neither you nor I get to dictate that walk.

 

That's beautiful. I am so appreciative that you both shared. Speaking to you individually, I was like, “There's a thread of connection here.” I should have checked in before, to be honest, it was until the moment I started thinking about childhood and your children now. I was like, “I love to talk about it here on the show” because it's a whole different dimension, parenting that you all now bring and are having to wrap your own arms around it, then also the rest of your family. Thank you for being generous.

 

I don't know if it'll show. If you can see this picture, look how happy they are.

 

Very cute.

 

Same thing, before she came out, she was miserable. We could tell that and we thought maybe she needed to move out and go be with people her age, she seemed miserable. It made it worse because she realized how different she was from her roommates who were boy-crazy. She had a dark time. He’s very sad. As soon as she acknowledged her sexuality, she was able to be free from that. Even though I always had a good relationship with her, she did not have confidence that I would still want to be her mom. She was still afraid to bring that up.

 

Some other things that had been going on, we were both seeing the same therapist independently. Her therapist knew me. She said, “You can tell your mom. I know your mom and she is not going to cut you off.” That was a blessing. I see that as a huge advantage that I had. Sometimes when I share my story, I feel like it makes it look like it was so easy to get to that place where everybody was happy but I'm like we had so many of these helpful little things. That was one of them that we had that same therapist who knew each of us and knew of our relationship and could say this is going to be okay and she helped us navigate through that. It was helpful.

 

I could continue to pull on this. Is it your daughter?

 

Beautiful.

 

Thank you. Last year, she graduated with her associates in applied science and business. This December she gets her bachelor's in business. She helped me. She has a savings account. She has her own health insurance. The thing that was fortunate for us, and I don't know if this is the same for you is that me and my husband were on the same side.

 

Yes, absolutely. You almost take it for granted until you hear of somebody where it's not. I follow some Facebook groups. A lot of the problems that people are having discrepancies in how they and their spouses want to handle it.

 

I'm curious as we're starting to wrap up our time together. This could have been a whole different episode, which we might if you want, I can have a part two. I'm curious, by the way. I'm curious if we zoom out of this experience, this is the first time either of you has been on a show. I remember the very beginning, it took a little soul searching to see if this is something that that you would say yes to that you thought would benefit. I'm curious looking now at the experience, what did you get out of being in this conversation?

 

I have loved getting to know Prudence. It's been fun. Because I don't feel like I’m that interesting of a person to have a show with me. It's been great to talk to both of you.

 

That's interesting that you don't feel that interesting as a person. I think all human beings are interesting. You shared that you play the ukulele. You had an experience the first time feeling White, and the clarinet. You have a daughter that came out to you. I think your son is in a mission now, I believe.

 

He’s back from that. He did that.

 

We are all layers. I think that the intent is to connect with that. I'm not sure what your bar for interesting would be. Maybe it's different. I think you sure as heck are interesting enough. I want to bring the two of you together to have this conversation. I'm curious, Prudence, what was it like for you? What are you walking away with?

 

I almost never shared this with people. I was almost Mormon. I jumped in the carpool. Of my friends, I had the first car. I would pick everybody up. I live in Schofield and they lived in Waihawa. They had a seminary in the morning. We would drive to seminary which was near the school, and I would sleep in the car and they would go, and then when I moved to Molokai for a little bit because my husband was stationed there, they had this church wall, like churches next to each other.

 

These elders came to my house and I knew because I knew what the Mormon faith was because they were on my carpool. They explain a lot of stuff and you're like, “What?” I learned a lot about them. When the elders came by, like I did the lessons and stuff, and I went to Relief Society, I learned how to make mangled bread in a jar. You can bake it. You put the mix in there and bake it in the jar, and then you close it, and that's a gift. I learned a lot of things about managing your house and sharing goals and stuff. I was almost Mormon. I’m surprised that I’m not actually.

 

All that means is now you all have to connect after this and have an exploratory conversation. Any final words before we close for this session?

 

I don't know, I feel like this picture is so bad. I found my eighth-grade picture. I'm going to flip it around when I'm ready. Valerie, maybe I was trying to copy your hairdo.

 

I do. I have that picture. I'll share mine. That's your eighth grade. I still have my ID.

 

Look what I found too.

 

I don't know if we can see it. There's a bit of a glare there.

 

Here’s my seventh-grade picture and this is my eighth-grade picture. I had a Jerry curl

 

It is the same hairdo.

 

We're twins.

 

My mom gave me a perm.

 

My mom didn't give this to me, but it's still quite bad. Thank you for sharing that.

 

I should have prepared my pictures too because they are not very flattering.

 

I asked my mom, Prudence, “Do you have any childhood pictures of me and Prudence,” She didn't have time to look. I thought it was a last-minute thing for me to ask her. Any final words from you, Prudence?

 

There's one thing that I want people to embrace. When I took my daughter to go meet my husband's transgender classmate. She said, “If you're going to be a girl, don't be a girl just to be a girl. Be a girl who does something.” I love that. She does a whole bunch of stuff. She did a book drive for the women's prison. She found a domestic violence shelter to donate money to where she works. She does a lot of great stuff. I want my kids to do that. I tried to do that. My husband tries to do that. Be someone that does something, and I do that in my writing. However either of you and the people watching this or listening to it do things, I hope that you'll think about that too. Plan a wedding, even if you only know Word Perfect. You could do this.

 

You can. Be someone who does something. By the way, Prudence is a playwright. We could have gone another hour in conversation about any of this. I'm so grateful to the two of you for trusting me. I know that it is a little bit nerve-wracking to think about what you would say, what you would talk about, and how you prepare for being in a show, but both of you are so generous with your stories, your examples, and your experiences. I don't take that for granted. I'm so grateful that you did come to share, and you've found some even more commonalities than I even thought would be there. 

 

It’s the whole point of the show. I want to thank everyone who tuned in to listen to this conversation. Maybe you have a childhood friend that you can reach out to that you haven't talked to in a while. Between the three of us, it’s only been maybe less than ten years that we've been connected on social media. To have a conversation of any depth and meaning, it has been pretty recent that we've had these conversations. It was instant. It didn't take time to warm up. I appreciate that too.

 

I appreciate that our friendships were what they were during that time when all of us were children. That will still take something away from having met each other and having been in each other's world and experiences that it carried 30-plus years later. Thank you. This is very cool. Thank you, everyone, for tuning in to another episode of Not Quite Stranger. Make sure you subscribe if you haven't already done so at www.NotQuiteStrangers.com. We look forward to seeing you at the next episode, everyone. Thank you again, Marci and Prudence. Thanks, everyone else, for tuning in. Have a wonderful rest of the day.

 

Important Links


Strangers: Meet Marci Bertelson Judkins & Prudence Kealiiwahine Hokoana Gormley 

Place: Air Force Brat/Utah, USA & Army Brat/Hawaii, USA

Topic: Aloha culture, childhood in the military, and their Rainbow children.

 

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