No, I’m not talking about that kine calabash.  I’m talking about calabash family.

What is calabash uncle, calabash aunty, calabash cousin anyway  Can you marry your calabash cousin?

So I had to look it up – and wouldn’t you know it – it’s a Hawaii thing!

Calabash – Calabash in Hawaii has led to terms like “calabash family” or “calabash cousins”, indicating an extended family grown up around shared meals and close friendships.

We had a calabash family that lived up the street – Uncle “Eric” Soon Gar and aunty Florence Kim.  And their sister, aunty Berta (it was probably Bertha, but I said Berta) – she was the clown in the family.  Good fun aunty.  And their kids were our calabash cousins.  Some days, uncle Soon Gar would pick us up from elementary school instead of my mom.  I remember uncle Soon Gar’s light blue Valiant station wagon.  And aunty Berta had an old 1950’s Chevy tank.  It was a treat when aunty Berta picked us up from school and we got to ride in that huge chunk of metal.

Another calabash family was uncle Wally and Aunty Eva Kim.  Another Kim calabash – hard to tell my dad was Korean, huh?  Uncle Wally was a carpenter with a huge shop in his back yard.  It was almost as big as a school building!  Well, not really.  Probably, it was because I was really small that it looked big.  I remember a lot about uncle Wally.  We referred to him as “soda uncle” because he had an old icebox in the back shed that was always filled with bottled soda.  The good kine like Kist and Diamond Head in flavors like strawberry, root beer, orange, etc.  Whenever we went to his house, we’d say hi then sit down nicely on the couch and just wait for it.  Then he’d give us the green light to go get a soda and we’d go ripping out the door to the back shed.  We even knew where the mounted bottle opener was.

Uncle Wally had the coolest house.  There was a family room just across the kitchen where the color console TV was and couches.  The next room was their living room that seemed untouched.  I remember going in there around Christmas time and the fragrance of the Christmas tree would fill the room.

I remember how aunty Eva used to open the tin can from on top of the refrigerator and offer me the puff rice squares.  The good Chinese kine with peanuts and ginger.  Uncle Wally used to sit in the kitchen behind the counter facing the TV.  A Chihuahua on his lap.  He always had Chihuahuas.  And I remember when he had a Poodle too – smart dog, he could do tricks.  Uncle Wally would sit there with a glass of whiskey in front of him watching whatever was on TV.  He loved his dogs and liquor.

And when he used to visit us in Kailua, that was the only time the liquor would come out from the cabinet.  I just remember his old green truck with the pipe racks.  I used to climb all over his truck, the green faded paint all over my hands and clothes.

Oh, one more think I remember about uncle Wally’s house – he had a koi pond right next to the walkway and get this – by the wash basin was this little closet with a toilet.  An outdoor toilet.  Didn’t matter if I had shi-shi or not, I always had to go shi-shi there.

That’s all the calabash family I can remember now.  That term was used very loosely.  Whenever we visited people that I didn’t know and would ask later “who was that?”, the answer would be “that was our calabash uncle/aunty/cousins”.  Like the folks we stayed with on the Big Island and the ones we stayed with in Richmond and in Los Angeles.  Calabash family.

Did you have calabash families too?



10 Responses to “Calabash”

  1. sameguydifferentchannel says:

    Much thanks to all who served and continue to serve on this Veteran’s Day!

  2. pukapants says:

    Yeah. We had Auntie Moili and Uncle Raymond. They lived Nuuanu, right near my Grandma, Grandpa and Auntie A. Both Uncle Raymond and Grandpa were docs (Territorial Physician Certifications), so they knew each other well. Auntie Moili and Uncle Raymond (never “Ray”) were fixtures at family gatherings and drop-in regulars. Last time I saw Uncle Raymond, I’d eaten some of Auntie S’s home-grown Peery Mango slush for a midnight snack. Think I was in my late 20s by then. Quickly learned I had developed a mango allergy! (never had one before; weird, right?) Auntie A called Auntie Moili and we went over to their house, wee hours. Auntie M put me on a chair in the kitchen. Uncle shuffled out of the bedroom, in his skivvies and bvd shirt, with socks. He fished around in the fridge (yawning, sooo tired!), hooked up a syringe of epinephrine, and saved me from a trip to the ER. He must’ve been 85 or 90 by that time. Then Auntie A and I thanked him and were quickly ushered out by Auntie M. Thanks again, Uncle!

  3. Seawalker says:

    @Rod, that picture you used look like koa wood. We have a cup that looks similar. When I found out how painstaking of a process to make these things out of koa, I had ours encased. I dunno, can termites eat through koa? Seems like the older you get, the more you appreciate things. Koa and classical music are striking my chord lately. But hard to tell the difference between monkey pod and koa sometimes. You have to hold it in your hands and see it with your own eyes to truly enjoy it.

  4. Seawalker says:

    The more I think about it, the more confused I get. And this happens often!

    Back in days of alii, children of royalty were hanai-ed instead of being raised by mom and pops. Thus, that’s where I think all the hanai uncles of aunties of today stem from.

    Now, throw in the calabash and extended cousins and family, you got one hot sticky mess hand on your hands. Stay all kine chop suey!

    Everyone also has their favorite uncle or aunty of the family. Me? I was lucky with a lot of siblings to boss around and be bossed around by. Never need the calabashes beyond the immediate family.

    Parents stayed married uku-billion years, so that kept everyone and everything in tact. Kids nowadays are calling you uncle left and right. But good, when you uncle to them, kupuna status is right around the corner.

  5. 4G says:

    I have a calabash uncle and aunty that were mainland haoles. They were the kindest, nicest, most accommodating folks. My dad met my uncle Jess when they were in the Air Force together. I guess they hit it off cause they stayed in touch from what must be around 1954 until my uncle Jess passed away a couple of years ago. My aunty Lucille proceeded him by like a year.

    My mom and dad knew them from before my sister was born. Needless to say, I really don’t remember a time, growing up, that I was not aware of their existence. That’s kind of interesting because they lived in Orange County (CA) and we lived in Hawaii. This was at a time when airplane travel was still relatively young. I really don’t remember how old I was when I first saw them.

    I remember two, maybe three times when we stayed with them at their home while on a family vacation. I believe the earliest stay was when I had just finished the fourth grade. That would make it around ’65. My Uncle Jess had a classic Porsche. Their house had a pool. He joked (I think) that he wanted to “bomb Disneyland” during that visit. I thinking he was just trying to get a rise out of my sister and me. I think the comment came when we were actually on our way to Disneyland. LOL

    I remember them staying over at our house a couple of times when they were here on vacation. I remember my family and I taking them around the island on at least one occasion. They were super nice people.

    Story is that my dad and my uncle had a bit of a debate about whether Musashi struck Sasaki with the wooden sword or his short sword (wakizashi) based on the Samurai Trilogy directed by Hiroshi Inagaki. Those were circa 1954-56. I remember seeing those three movies, but I was also born in 1956, so I have no idea when my dad and uncle Jess saw it. I had to have seen it well after 1956 in order to remember seeing it. Maybe my uncle Jess and aunty Lucille were here on a visit? Dunno.

    We introduced them to my daughter when my daughter was like four on a visit to Disneyland. That is a good memory for me.

    RIP Uncle Jess and Aunty Lucille

    • 4G says:

      Dern – a mind is a terrible thing to waste. 😉

      Was thinking about the first introduction of my daughter to my uncle Jess and aunty Lucille. I misspoke. 🙁

      It was actually when my daughter was like two, maybe three. My uncle Jess and aunty Lucille attended my maternal grandmother’s funeral . . . .

  6. sameguydifferentchannel says:

    I never had a calabash family, and just vague knowledge of some of my second cousins. But my better half’s side, oh my. She has a McCully uncle, Waipahu baban, Manoa jiji, and on and on and on… I gave up asking her how she’s related to them as it’s so and so is my cousin’s wife’s brother in law (huh?). Pretty cool though, how their extended family just regards each other as cousins, uncles, or aunties.

  7. Kage says:

    Both my parents siblings did not live in Hawaii so we grew up with only calabash aunties, uncles and cousins.

    We were treated as real family. So much so, when my cousin started working and when filling out the application he needed to put a non relative personal reference, cousin argued with his father that Uncle A could not be used because he is the Uncle. His father had to remind him there was no blood or marriage relations.

    My Calabash family came from my Mom. Her first husband was in the military and these Hawaii families stuck together and helped each other out when the Uncles were deployed.

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