Michael G. Malaghan
Special to The Hawai‘i Herald
A light spray tingled the faces of Haru and her young charges. The 3 o’clock sun had painted a double rainbow arching down from rainy Wa‘ahila Ridge, curving into sunny Kapi‘olani Park, a mile from the Takayamas’ home.
“Check your backpacks,” reminded Haru.
A dozen boys, ages 7 to 11, including her Tommy and Yoshio, stood almost at attention in their starched blue Cub Scout uniforms. Stitched merit badges peppered their upper sleeves and unblemished yellow bandanas hung around their necks.
Haru pulled out a list from the sleeve of her yukata and began reading off her checklist. “Three Band-Aids?”
“Hai!” the chorus shouted out.
“Onigiri?” called out Haru, referring to their rice balls wrapped in pressed seaweed with a pickled plum in the center.
And so went the list.
Haru and her assistant den mother, Saki, were loaded down like donkeys with marshmallows, hamburger meat, buns, ketchup and mustard.
In need of additional income, Saki had taken to raising rabbits, thanks to an advance from Haru.
“Better than pigs,” Saki said. “They don’t smell, not much poop and they multiply like . . . rabbits.” The line always got the laugh she’d learned to expect. Her husband’s carpentry business “was starting slow.” After quitting the Rev. Okumura’s carpentry class, Yoshi had pressured his critics to let him join their tanomoshi loan club and lend him money to buy an electric planer.
Haru had birthed the Cub Scout idea in Waimea as a way to Americanize her children. She had approached Wellington Carter, whose ranch sponsored scouting for the children of his paniolo (cowboy). Haru had served as an assistant den mother for three months with the troop. She had entered her apprenticeship in order to provide her mission’s children an American activity, only to find that she enjoyed the outings, too. While the Cub Scouts was an American institution, the activities of rope tying, reading a compass, and identifying birds and animals held universal appeal to boys of any ethnic or cultural background. Later, when Takeshi was of age, Kenji had promised to start a Boy Scout troop.
Assured that everyone was prepared, Haru announced, “Until we get back, let’s speak English only.”
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Editor’s note: We continue Michael G. Malaghan’s serialized historical novel, “Picture Bride — A Family Saga,” based on the Japanese immigrant experience. Malaghan’s trilogy takes readers from turn-of-the-20th-century-Japan to Hawai‘i in the picture bride era; the Islands during World War II, highlighted by the exploits of the Nisei soldiers; and beyond.
The novel, which is now available as a printed softcover book, opens with 12-year-old Haru-chan, fleeing her home in Amakusa, Kyüshü, for Hiroshima, where she becomes the picture bride of a Buddhist priest in Hawai‘i.
Author Michael Malaghan is a retired businessman who divides his time between Hawai‘i, Florida and Japan.