By GWEN MURANAKA
When I first started at Rafu, one of the tasks I’d get every so often was to type up the wedding announcements. It is a form that asks a whole series of questions such as names of bridesmaids and groomsmen, style of wedding dress, church and pastor. It’s been a long time since we’ve had requests for wedding announcements. I wish more couples would share their wedding stories.
After all, the story of the Japanese American community is not just one of hardship and perseverance (gaman and shikata ga nai) or basketball leagues and fishing trips. It is also a story of love. Maybe the most wondrous stories of camp are the couples who found one another even in those harsh circumstances.
My own wedding story is pretty typical of these times I think. Eric and I first met at The Rafu. Quite a few couples have connected here at the newspaper, but it wasn’t until several years after he left the company that we truly found one another during a diving trip together on the Big Island.
He proposed last February at Cherrystones, inventing a magic trick with the help of Leonard Kim and Bill Yamane, both skilled magicians. With my family, his family and everybody at the restaurant in on the surprise, and a wave of a wand, a diamond ring appeared. Eric dropped to one knee and I said, “Yes.” Inevitably, a video was posted on YouTube.
Of course after the magic came the long, stressful and expensive process of planning a wedding. I was never one of those little girls who dreamed of becoming a bride or fantasized about my dream wedding. Wedding dress? Check. Bouquet and musicians? Check, check. Every task was a challenge to be addressed. Thanks to the help of my dear friends Shelley and Virginia, Eric and his mom Gayle, it all came together at Haiku Gardens, set below the Ko‘olau mountains on the windward side of Oahu.
Time is malleable and subjective. In the early morning hours on that day, the minutes raced by as the stylist did our hair and make-up. (Thank you to whoever said that I looked like Kristi Yamaguchi.) A photographer, just as professional and friendly as Mario, came in to take photos, flower leis were sorted and handed out. Keira, the little flower girl, fussy and frowning, was coaxed into carrying the white basket filled with rose petals. It was a flurry of noise, a whirl of aunties and camera flashes.
Then everybody left to head to the small chapel and time stopped. I was alone, except for my dad, so handsome in an aloha shirt and kukui nut lei, perched on a high stool, waiting for our cue to head down. Dad, who has given me so much in my life, was here for this most important task, a walk down the aisle.
Holding onto Dad, I looked down the aisle lined with petals. There were all our friends and family, and at the end of it all, Eric, dressed in a white linen shirt — my love, my life, my husband.
Too often it seems we gather for funerals. We only see one another when it is time to say goodbye. What joy then to share this moment of happiness and hope with the people most important in our lives. I think that’s why I cried on that day.
Years earlier, my oldest sister Elaine was married at Haiku Gardens, and I was the fussy little flower girl then. Today she is fighting a tough battle with debilitating disease, unable to travel from her home on Oahu’s North Shore and hospitalized during the wedding. Her husband Keawe is a patient caregiver, feeding her and taking such gentle care of her every need. “In sickness and in health” are words that have more meaning when you witness such loving devotion and sacrifice.
I had hoped Elaine would be well enough to attend, but after the reception, we hopped into the rental car, bridesmaids and all, and drove to the Kaiser in Moanalua in our wedding finery.
“Is somebody having their wedding here?” I could hear somebody saying as we hurried through the hospital lobby. What a sight we must have been: a white wedding gown and veil in the sterile hallways. In her room, we shared photos and flowers with Elaine. I held her hand and kissed her on the forehead: it is far too long between visits. It is so hard to see big sister in this state, but we shared the moment. We couldn’t have gotten married without her somehow being a part of it.
Afterwards was the afterparty with drinks and laughter, because that too, is part of a wedding. Love, laughter, sadness — all these big emotions, all this preparation for just one day. And because this is Hawaii, we capped the night off with a quick stop at Zippy’s on Kapahulu Avenue to eat chili and rice. The next morning, exhausted, I slept in as Eric and his family went to the swap meet at Aloha Stadium.
It’s been a few months now, and life is basically as it was before. No more planning, just back to our jobs and routines. In life there is no “happily ever after,” there is just life in all its beauty and imperfection. But with all of that behind us, it is exciting to wonder what’s the next adventure, what’s around the corner. Hand-in-hand, we ask, what’s next?
Gwen Muranaka is Rafu English editor-in-chief and may be contacted via email. Ochazuke is a staff-written column. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.