Life at the Center: Wishing they stayed puppies forever…. Vol. 53, December 2017
We are on the brink. A couple brothers who are part of the lifeblood of Still & Moving Center have only a few months left as 12-year-old twins. American teenagehood can strike with a vengeance, and one never knows what may be printed on the next page of the book. So let’s tell their story up to this point, and ‘get it while the gettin’ is good,’ as my dear ole’ grandma would say!
Waiea and Kaiehu Helela came into my life almost 7 years ago when their mother Malia and I opened up Still & Moving Center. They were cute, but noisy, uncontained little chaps. I have to say I’d sometimes bite my tongue when they’d interrupt our conversation yet again. Normal, healthy, self-expressive boys – I’ve had two of them myself, so I know how to put up with their occasional annoyances.
For a long time their Hawaiian names were difficult for me, and even though they looked somewhat different, I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t give them the attention to determine which face fit with which name. They DID look a lot more similar then than they do now, I will say in my defense!
How is it these two little rascals wormed their way into my heart? You know, I think that they EARNED their way into my heart. They have won my respect for their integrity, their never-failing politeness and their sincere, genuine aloha.
Eventually, their distinct personalities and charm began to emerge for me, especially as Malia told their stories. Remarkably and symbolically, they were born few minutes on either side of midnight of the Spring Equinox, March 20th/21st, 2005. She describes the first, Waiea, as Old Man Winter : wizened, measured, deliberate, born the last day of the Winter season. Kaiehu, more fair-haired and light-hearted, popped out on the first day of Spring, face up and smiling.
Some of those characteristics persist to this day. Waiea, more serious, tends towards engineering. Kaiehu is enchanted by music. He began to meditate on his own when he was 7 or 8 years old. Waiea, always playing the sceptic, has a wry sense of humor that will come out the side of his mouth as understated wisecracks.
Malia has been great at putting their boy-energy to good advantage. Eager participants, Kaiehu and Waiea have probably participated in every single children’s class or event at Still & Moving Center. They had sharp eyes for finding the Easter eggs during our celebration. Nowadays, they play Easter Bunny for us and hide the eggs for the little ones.
From children’s Nia to yoga to partner acro, they were always good sports. I loved watching Waiea spin in the hanging lyra at Circus Camp. As boys, they especially relished Kung Fu, Zen Archery and recently Axion Swords.
The one activity where they gave only a lackluster, half-hearted effort was hula class – taught by their mother, of course, our ^kumu hula^ (traditionally trained hula teacher). They’d begrudgingly slog through the opening warm-ups of hula class, pleading to be excused at the earliest possible moment. Eventually they got into an Hawaiian immersion school, and I watched the boys change at our hula classes within months. In school they were with others who had equally difficult or MORE difficult Hawaiian names to pronounce than they do! They were now surrounded by children their own age participating in the cultural practices of the school that they had previously engaged in with only their parents.
Not only do they now dance hula, they’ve even begun to swing their hips as they do so! Kaiehu has even started to occasionally accompany us, the hula dancers, on Malia’s coconut drum, allowing Malia to dance with us! Along with Malia and their little sister Ilana, the boys stand next to their mother as we chant our request to enter the dance space. It gave me chicken skin the first time I ever heard their voices chanting back a welcome.
I loved clearing a traditional taro patch with them – thigh deep in mud – at a sacred site where their care-take. The boys and their mom have also just finished 3 years of lomi-lomi massage training with a traditional practitioner. They’re really diving into Hawaiian practices. At this point they are humbly proud (if you know what I mean) representatives of their culture. They accompany Malia on many of her blessing ceremony and are learning to play a role.
They’re even performing hula in front of audiences. My heart just filled up to overflowing watching them perform in front of 3 thousand of people in a Waikiki ballroom – I was so inordinately proud of them!
Speaking of cultures, these kids are as diverse as Still & Moving Center is. This year at our enactment of the Ramayana story during the Indian festival of lights, the twins delightedly changed from their traditional roles as the virtuous young princes to now becoming swordfighting members of the demon hordes!
When I saw the boys change their roles that I realized that their years of childhood were swiftly coming to a close.
As I write, these boys are inquisitive, eager learners. In our hula prayer circle they give thanks and blessings for others in the group, or for anyone who may be sick or unhappy. Kaiehu was recently the only child in a yoga and spirituality workshop, and he gave ua a clear, cogent description of his self-created morning meditation practice. The two of them walk over to greet Aunty Renee – any every other aunty – with a warm hug every time they walk in the door. I love these kids.
I have no doubt Waiea and Kaiehu will be eventually be kind, responsible, honorable men. Who KNOWS what’s going to happen in the intervening years when teenage takes place?!? The boys will turn 13 in March (at almost the same time that Still & Moving turns 7.) Maybe their Hawaiian traditions will carry them through unscathed. They’ll probably be just as wonderful, but in a different way than they are now. In any case, let’s take this moment to celebrate a happy ending – the last pages of two wonderful childhoods – as they prepare to enter the next exciting volume of the story of their lives.