A Not So Scary Plot

Liddo Bitta Tita


Story by Kathy Collins | Illustration by Matt Foster

Listen to this column read aloud in pidgin:

Kathy Collins, Tita

Trick o’ treat, smell my feet, gimme sumptin’ good fo’ eat!

Dass what we used to say fo’ Halloween in da hanabata days (small-kid time). Excep’ fo’ da Front Street party in Lahaina, I t’ink Halloween on Maui mus’ be like Halloween on da mainland. Oh wait, get one mo’ diff’rence. Cemataries.

You tell one mainland kinny-gardnah fo’ make one Halloween picture, he going draw one graveyard, wit’ maybe some ghosts an’ zombies li’dat. Da local kid going draw jack-o-lanterns an’ candy corn. Sumptin’ good fo’ eat.

See, to us, cemataries not spooky. We see ‘em alla time, not just Halloween. We get ‘em all ovah da place. We get church cemataries an’ fam’ly graveyards, modern-kine memorial parks an’ old-time burial grounds. We get Hawaiian, Chinese, an’ Japanese graveyards. We get da official Vet’rans Cemetery in Makawao an’ small liddo graveyards in da middo of neighborhoods like Kahului an’ Waikapū. Da Maui Historical Society says, get hundred-sumptin’ graveyards on da island. So no sense be scared. Bum-by you going be freakin’ out all da time. ‘Cause no mattah where you stay on Maui, get one graveyard near you.

My fav’rites is da ones dat get plumeria trees. In da olden days, they used to plant plumeria trees in da cemataries ‘cause da smell from da trees more strong dan da smell from da graves. Dass why da old-timers call ‘em graveyard flowahs or ma-ke (dead) man trees. Da old graveyard in Wailuku, at da top end of Vineyard Street, get about five diff’rent kine plumeria trees still yet growin’. Dass where I go when I gotta make lei. ‘Cause I know da guys who live inside not going yell at me for picking their plumerias. At least they nevah yet.

My Okinawan grandfaddah’s grave used to be at da Rinzai Zen Mission in Pāʻia. Bon dance time, our fam’ly would go hang paper lanterns, light da senko (Japanese incense), lay out da goza mats an’ eat dinnah at da grave. Ji-chan wen’ rest ovah there from 1961 until his wife wen’ ma-ke, couple t’ree years ago. She nevah like be at dat graveyard, so we had to dig him up an’ put him wit’ her at da new cematary. I no t’ink he mind, so long as they stay togedda. Aftah all, he went wait fo’ her fifty years.

Even at da new cemetery, an’ even though we not Buddhist, our fam’ly still yet follow da tradition of putting food at da grave fo’ Ji-chan an’ Baban an’ da rest. We get two rows of fam’ly graves at one cematary, so me an’ my muddah an’ my cousins, we go ev’ry Sattaday morning fo’ take care an’ clean ‘em up. If you go walk around dat graveyard, you see oranges, manju, even candy bars and beer on top some a da graves.

One time, somebody wen’ leave one can soda an’ one dog biscuit on top my cousin’s grave. I wen’ get all upset an’ offended until my muddah wen’ remind me dat my cousin’s dog wen’ ma-ke right aftah him, so they wen’ get buried togeddah.

Small-kid time, my maddah would let me eat da oranges from da graves. She said my ancestahs would be happy fo’ share. I nevah goin’ fo’get da time one haole guy wen’ ask her, “When do you think your loved ones will come back to eat the food you left for them?”

She said, “Prob’ly da same time yours come fo’ smell da flowahs you wen’ leave.”

I know my Ji-chan; he would raddah have sumptin’ good fo eat.


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