Story by Kathy Collins
Listen to this column read aloud in pidgin:
One t’ing about titas, we hardly evah get sick. I t’ink dass ‘cause da germs too scared fo’ land on top us. But ev’ry once inna while, I come down wit’ one bug dass too dumb fo’ know he not s’pose to take on one tita, or else he too cocky fo’ care. Dass what wen’ happen to me dis week.
Da las’ time my stomach wen’ ack like dis was when I was seven years ol’ and my cousin an’ me was playin’ like we was ancient Hawaiians, in da empty lot up da street. We wen’ pick stuffs fo’ eat from da trees an’ da bushes in da lot—poha berries an’ Surinam cherries an’ kukui nuts. We was all excited fo’ find out dat kukui nuts taste like supah-size, extra-intense macadamia nuts. We wasn’t so happy fo’ find out dat da real Hawaiians wen’ use kukui nuts fo’ candles, varnish, hair oil, an’ laxative. I donno about da res’, but I can tell you fo’ sure, da laxative part is fo’ real kine, hones’ promise.
Anyways, since my friends hardly evah seen me sick, they all get advice fo’ me now. Even though they all get diff’rent kine cures, one t’ing same: ev’rybody go back to what they wen’ grow up wit’. My haole friend t’ink chicken soup can fix any kine sick. Dass one scientific fack, he tell. My Filipino friend says calamansi juice mo’ bettah, get plenny vitamin C. My Hawaiian friend wen’ bring me one bag poi an’ homemade Portagee sausage. Not scientific, but good fo’ da soul. Like da jook (turkey-and-rice soup) my Chinese friend wanted fo’ cook fo’ me.
My maddah had one vitamin C remedy too. Fo’ sore t’roat, she would cut one puka in da top of one fresh lemon and stick one salty dried plum, li hing mui, inside da hole. All day I would suck on dat lemon until no mo’ nottin’ juice left, and den I get to eat da li hing mui. We always had li hing mui in da house, plus odda Chinese seeds like lemon peel—also good fo’ sore t’roat—an’ candied ginjah fo’ setto’ yo’ stomach.
But my numbah-one comfort food is ochazuke (green tea on top hot rice) like my Japanee gramma, my ba-chan, used to make, wit’ pickled turnip or ume (salted plum). Anytime I eat ochazuke, I feel like one small kid again, back in Ba-chan’s plantation house. I close my eyes an’ I can see myself all curl up on da pune‘e, unda-neat’ da kalakoa quilt wit’ da colors all mix-up. Almos’ I can hear da Ha‘iku rain on top da tin roof; sound like taiko drummahs playin’ one lullaby. An’ I even smell da Vicks VapoRub dat my maddah used to stick up inside my nose fo’ help me breathe.
Ho, just t’inkin’ about all dat, I feel liddo bit bettah. Not great, but good enough fo’ drag myself outta bed fo’ go cook rice an’ put da teaketto’ on da stove. I hope I still get some ume inside da fridge.