Tutu (Grandmother)

Thomas Jonathan Schwartz in utero

The impending birth of my first grandchild – yes, a boy – is an unknown joy. New territory. Four more months of preparation and my thoughts turn to the wonder of having a boy-child in the family. My experience is with girls who are now women. Fierce, independent and loving. Married to good men. Working at their professions as Master Dog Trainer and writer. It’s the dog trainer’s pregnancy that has our family all a flutter with new feelings and more importantly, new future.

This grandson, who is tumbling in this sonogram, already takes after his dad, a gymnastics coach. And being a boy, he has saved me from my first fear – watching a granddaughter navigate a balance beam. I confess, this was my own personal nightmare as a 7th grader. So, for now, this particular fear can be tucked away until further notice.

This grandson carries in his DNA Jewish, Scottish, Irish, and Hawaiian genetic material. When my daughter broke the news of her pregnancy to me and my husband, she did so by asking us what we wanted to be called as grandparents. I said “Tutu” – the Hawaiian word for grandma and my husband chose “Pappy”, after his father’s dad. The power of that moment, the uttering of new names by which we would be called, had a profound affect on me. This little child, whom we now know is a boy, will be 1/16th Hawaiian. How will I transmit the culture of my mother’s ancestors – Na Kupuna – to one whose physical countenance will never be mistaken as Hawaiian, should he travel to the home of his great-great-great grandmother – Kanoekaapunionalaniopeleokaluaokilauea?

We Hawaiians make up a small portion of the world’s population. Half of us live on the continental US. And most of us have mixed parentage with rich stories and customs  transmitted through various bloodlines. But at some point we choose the story that we want to continue. The story that will bridge our past, present, and future. I have chosen the story of my ancestors of Moku o Keawe, that place which is in a constant state of creation. This little boy, whose mother carries the name of Kanoeonalani, flows out of that story, like the fires of Kilauea, to create for us a new future.

Note: Moku o Keawe – The Big Island – Hawaii

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