Contributed by Special Guest Author, Pearl Rockett
I grew up in Upcountry Maui on a huge ranch. The Ulupalakua Ranch provided homes to all the families working there. The families living there were mainly cowboys and ranch hands. My father worked as a store clerk and Mom was a maid for the Baldwins, owners of the Ranch. Families were mainly people of Hawaiian ancestry, though some were Japanese like my family. I had the best times playing with all the children but developed the closest relationships to those who lived nearest to my home.
There was a forest behind our home, filled with tall and very old Eucalyptus trees. The forest was so filled with trees and wild plants that one could not see through it to its end. Kaniu, Powell and I made a “house” under huge tree trunks that had fallen from wind or age. We would play “pretend school” where one was a teacher and the others, students … or mamangoto where we would cook using tree branches, leaves and old bark from the trees. The forest also was our hideout when we played cowboys and Indians.
I grew up with families who were respectful of each other, caring, loving, and warm and kind. To this day, I feel very close to these children who are now adults and have moved out of Ulupalakua and have families of their own. My mother, brother, and I are always invited to gatherings or luaus that these former Ulupalakua families have. We have a strong bond of Aloha. It would be inconceivable for us to not attend the funerals of our Ulupalakua friends, because they mean so much to us.
My idyllic childhood ended when I had to attend high school. Transportation to a high school was a big problem, because my mother didn’t drive and Dad had to work. My parents found a family who would let me live with them, so I moved from rural Ulupalakua to the “city” of Wailuku so I could walk to Baldwin High School. In exchange for room and board, I worked as a live-in maid/babysitter in this Wailuku home. It was very difficult to transition from a country girl to a city girl. I had to iron the family’s clothing, especially the white shirts, till midnight every Friday and Saturday nights. I cleaned the home, babysat a 1-yr-old boy, and had to deal with his two very overwhelming brothers who were about 11- and 13-years-old.
The baby was sweet and smiled at me the first time I met him. I had never babysat before but learned very quickly! The younger brother would torture me by hitting me when I wasn’t looking, taunting me to no end. One evening when I went back to my room and opened the door, a spider was dangling right in front of my eyes! Another night, I walked into a string that was taped across my doorway in a zigzag manner. You should have heard the laughter. Sometimes they would hide in the bathroom, throw things at me, and shoot me with their water pistols. Boys! The older one was kinder and usually was cordial towards me but did conspire with his younger brother. He was into girls and didn’t have as much time to be mischievous. The boys in Ulupalakua were never so naughty. I remember crying in the shower every night for several months just because of the strangeness of my new way of life.
Despite this, I adapted to the ways of this family and accepted their mannerisms and attitudes. I admired the mother for her love of books. She had a bookshelf from floor to ceiling, her own personal library, and she would read to her boys all the time. She loved poetry and introduced me to the poet Shelley. At dinner, she would read stories to the boys and me. By the time I got to my room in the evenings, it was 8pm and hardly time to do ALL my homework. Many times I fell asleep on my books. It was during this time that I read Gone with the Wind. I loved that book. I owe all the books I’ve enjoyed to the mother who inspired me to read.
I always admired how the mother carried herself; she most definitely grew up with the “silver spoon in her mouth.” Still, she was kind and caring towards me. She also liked to laugh and was a cheerful person with a wonderful sense of humor. She never criticized me and would often ask me to ask my teacher about some science question. She played bridge with her lady friends, and I always liked those days because I could eat the leftover mint and jellied candies. I remember being hungry all the time.
I was impressed with the “power” of the elite, as the Baldwins were. One evening a plane flew over their home and its loud engine frightened the family enough so that the younger boy dived under the table. The father immediately called the FAA and asked them to change the route of the plane. In my own home, we were taught to gaman and tough it out. It was an awakening for me to see how different this family’s culture was from mine.
I regret not having fun high school experiences. I couldn’t go to the dances, participate in plays, clubs, Rally Week, etc. Always had to get home to babysit. But, I believe I have survived this far because I had to grow up fast. My reflections of those days are mostly good memories, and I do have a soft spot for the boys. That kolohe younger brother became a Hawaii State Representative. The “baby” is working on a tour boat. The mother lives in Oregon with her oldest son. Recently, two of the mother’s friends passed away … brought back memories for me. In fact, the daughter-in-law of one of her friends plays on my tennis team. Small world.
To this day, I avoid ironing clothes and cleaning the house. I hate cleaning refrigerators!
I am now 69 years old with three adult children. I lost my husband 16 years ago and have adjusted to my solitary life in Wailuku. I visit my grandchildren on Oahu. I am retired and am having the best times of my life. Tennis keeps me socially-connected and physically-active. I still love to read and enjoy going to symphonic concerts. I also enjoy quiet times. I am at peace.
Bio: Pearl Rockett was born in Kula, Maui to parents of Japanese descent. She graduated from Maui Community College and worked most of her life for the State of Hawaii’s Department of Health, Wailuku, Maui. As an active retiree, she plays tennis four times a week and is her team’s captain. Her team plays in island-wide tournaments and sometimes even wins! As a volunteer for Na Hoaloha agency, she helps home-bound seniors who are still ambulatory by providing transportation to doctor appointments, shopping, community events, hair appointments, etc. She also dances hula, plays the ukulele, paints on canvas and silk scarves, swims, reads, travels, and parties.