Story by Diane Haynes Woodburn
“Jam day,” says Jamie, looking out at the torrential rain. Soon the kitchen fills with the clanking of pots and clinking of jars as he prepares to make liliko‘i (passion fruit) butter. For weeks my husband has been cooking up batches of the golden elixir. Each guest at the wedding of our son Michael to his bride, Katherine, will receive a small jar of Jamie’s sunshine.
If the rain persists, it may be the only sunshine of the day.
Our house is filled with nieces, cousins, siblings . . . far-flung family who have flown in days early to help. We look down from our perch in Kula at the dark clouds blanketing Maui’s north shore, where the ceremony will happen in thirty-two hours. “Maybe we’ll have sunshine tomorrow,” I say, but I know that smile my sister gives me. It’s the one she wears to encourage me, when we both know the situation is doomed.
Later that night, as we tie ribbons around jars of lilko‘i butter and listen to the rain, I share the irony that, right now, we’re on deadline with the July/August issue of Maui No Ka ‘Oi, its pages filled with a photoessay on Hawai‘i’s best beaches, dining stories celebrating barbecues, and a fashion spread of swimwear that epitomizes the phrase “less is more.” Even our feature on Haleakala Ranch, celebrating its 125th anniversary this summer, is bathed in a nostalgic glow.
Over the drip-drip-drip on the roof, a cousin asks, “Don’t the Hawaiians say rain is a blessing?”
“That’s what Kimokeo tells me,” I answer.
Kimokeo Kapahulehua, a dear family friend and native Hawaiian, will officiate at the wedding, along with another friend, Joseph Narrowe, who trained Michael for his bar mitzvah. (Wasn’t that just yesterday?)
Sunday comes, and by four o’clock, the heavens smile on the north shore. Guests arrive to a welcome veil of high clouds that filter out what could have been scorching heat. “Thank you,” I offer silently, raising my eyes to a sky through whose gray palette sunbeams of pale yellow and mother-of-pearl reach down to kiss the ocean. “It just doesn’t get any better than this,” as my father would say. Mana — spiritual power — would be Kimokeo’s word.
From inside the beach house, I hear Joe address the gathering, explaining that the canopy the bride and groom will stand under is a chuppah. In Judaism, it represents the couple’s home, and is open on all sides to signify that guests are always welcome. Then I hear the pu (conch) being blown, calling the earth, sea, air and fire as witnesses. Its muted tone recalls the sound of the shofar (ram’s horn) from my own culture.
And now the pule, prayers chanted in Hawaiian. At Kimokeo’s signal, the bridal procession begins. We float down the plumeria-strewn aisle to our seats. A minute later, we hear the strains of “Here comes the sun . . . here comes the sun.” Radiant, barefoot, Katherine joins her shyly beaming groom. Kimokeo invites the family to join them under the chuppah as my husband and I wrap our bridal couple in my father’s prayer shall. In my heart, I hear Kimokeo say the words my father loved so much: “My father’s bone to my bone; my father’s flesh to my flesh.”
Vows exchanged, blessings expressed in Hawaiian and Hebrew, Katherine and Michael kiss.
The wedding guests rise to applaud them, then wander to the large tent where dinner will later be served. A sprinkling of rain makes its way down the coast, offering its blessing as it passes.
“You know,” I say, wrapping an arm around my sister’s waist, “what Daddy would have loved most about this day — is that we are all together.”
This little spot on Maui’s north shore didn’t make our list of best beaches, but for me, it just doesn’t get any better.