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A Letter to Little HiwaHiwa

December 16, 2010

Dear Keikihiwahiwaake’akua (Hiwa),

That’s you, inside your mamma’s womb. There you rest, with your daddy’s arms wrapped around you and your beautiful mamma. This photo is taken on Thanksgiving weekend while your parents were visiting us on the farm in Virginia. It is two and a half weeks before today, the day you were born in New York City. It’s a big city, but you were brought into a tiny warm world between the milk of your mother and the arms of your father, far from the loud, innocuous racket of the beautiful metropolis. There is so much to tell you, so much you will come to know about who your parents are. They will have so many stories for you, so much love, so much adventure.

This photograph tells you a lot about your parents. The look in your mother’s eyes. She is strong, confident, upright. She is sure of who she is. She is the kind of woman who is honest and free enough to look you straight in the eye. Yet she is gentle and loving. Your father, he loves her so much. He respects her so much. And he is a strong, confident man by being a servant leader to his wife. And he loves you so.

Your full name, Keikihiwahiwaake’akua Penelope Gim Sin Byrd, reminds us that you truly are a special byrd!  Your Hawaiian name Keiki hiwahiwa a ke akua, “beloved child of God,” speaks not only to your own identity, belonging to God, but also to that of your parents, who have long sought their Creator and have long known they are His beloved children. They pass that onto you. Your  Chinese name Gim Sin, your grandmother’s name,  speaks of the strength of your mother that was passed on to her from her mother. There is a lineage of strong women in your family that I hope you will come to cherish, and I hope this name will always remind you of that. And Penelope, well your father will have to tell you the story behind that name.

I have known your parents in their youth, as we grew up together, went through our college days and young married years together. I went to college with your father, and met your mother her junior year she spent in New York City. I thought she was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen, and was intrigued by her. What is she? I thought to myself. And I have come to discover that as Hawaiian as your parents are with Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiian and European roots, they are more than just a fusion of cultures, they are ʻohana, our family.

Your father prayed for us during our wedding ceremony, and your mother and I have shared years of friendship since college in an incredible women’s group. Cooking, laughing, fighting, crying, watching movies, YouTube videos (usually picked by your father and your Uncle Jason) and Flight of the Concords, scouring the New York streets for the best food, from a cart to a four-star restaurant, even sharing an apartment, for the years leading up to your birth, we shared a life with your parents. And we love them so. There is a fierce love between them, and that flows out of them towards other people. Your parents are some of the most generous people you will ever meet, but they will raise you that way, so it will probably not occur to you that they are anything other than normal. Your father has an incredible gift to love people, all people, and to invite them into his home and wash them over with love. And he has an incredible penchant for food, including Levain bakery cookies, which I’m sure you’ll grow up on since they are now in Harlem, to the dismay of your mamma!

It was a special day for us, today, the day you were born. It snowed here in Virginia, the first snow of the year, which will now always make me think of you. This is funny to me, even ironic, as  even though you are born and may grow up in the Big Apple, you are also from Hawaii, where it doesn’t snow at all on most parts of the islands! In honor of your birthday, I made Portuguese Sweet Bread, the kind made in Hawaii, and also the kind I grew up eating from my grandmother who learned from my Portuguese grandfather. We call it Masa. You call it Pao Doce or Hawaiian Sweet Bread. But regardless, being pukiki, or “potugue”, I share this love of sweet bread with you! And I share a deep love of your parents that I hope will flow over into your life. The day you were born into the Byrd family, my dear, was the day you were born into our family. This day is truly ono.


Your Auntie Harrigan

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