Paula Fuga’s “Misery’s End” Is My Happier Heart’s Letter to Hawaiʻi Nei

If I had to make a list of songs that remind me of home, I’d probably never stop writing. Growing up in a musical family meant that everything was fair game and everything was some kind of anthem to somebody. Whether it was Elvis Presley or Olomana it didn’t matter, so long as there was song. Hawaiian music was of course superior, but we let lots of other genres come in a close second.

As I grew up a little and started listening to music with my friends instead of just family – and, more importantly, once MTV was available in Hawaiʻi – my music tastes shifted dramatically. I started listening to 1980s big hair buttrock, then fell in love once I caught sight of Headbanger’s Ball. It wasn’t much of a leap from there to punk, ska, and hardcore, most of which I listened to live at the Backdoor, a little club by the airport where we* moshed beside murals of palm trees and jagged volcanic mountains cutting into a calm blue sea.

I was an angry girl, and the angry music on Koapaka Street both fed and soothed my growing rage. But no matter how angry I was, how terrible or confusing my life seemed to get, there were always old local standards I could count on to transport me back to happier times. Songs that cut closest to the bone were melancholy, of course, because my anger was rooted in longing for the days before all the bad things happened.

Melancholy songs of home continue to stir the deepest veins of homesickness and I often find myself losing a whole day trying to decide which version of Kuʻu Home o Kahaluʻu is the most perfect. (Answer: none of them because none of them feature my father on his acoustic twelve string.) But lately my homesickness has been shifting – and by lately I mean in the past six months or so. The sadness a little less devastating these days; the melancholy cuts a little less close to the quick. This is probably because for the first time since I left home, I’m finally in a place where I can afford to visit home more regularly than once every five or six years.

I’m also in a place where I feel like I’m living my dream life in Seattle. I’m home with the kids, in therapy, and writing a memoir that is helping me sort through most of my heartache. This past weekend the biggest item on my To-Do list was walking three whole blocks to help one of Iliana’s school friends break open her birthday piñata. Today my biggest To-Do is picking up some kombu and poi, then planting the lavender plant I bought on Friday.

It’s a really, really lovely life that I am super grateful to be living.

So it seemed perfect timing for me to find Paula Fuga’s “Misery’s End”, an upbeat song about leaving home to follow the promise of future. I followed my own future and the life I dreamed about has finally manifested. It’s been a difficult road and I’ll continue being homesick every moment I’m away from Hawaiʻi, but I also know that it is possible to build my life here while promising to stay connected to my homeland. I don’t have to leave my whole Seattle life behind to put an end to the winter misery of missing home. For the first time since I moved here, I really do have other options.

I emailed Paula last month to thank her for the work she does, and she emailed me back with the most heartwarming, wonderful message. After I read it I sat back in my chair, realizing how grand it is to be in this place in time.  No, I can’t move back home right now, but I can still be a part of home. I can find new songs that surround me with old time memories. With all this technology we have available, I can be transported to my beautiful Kailua beach even though I’m thousands of miles away. And sometimes I can even be happy about being homesick. Yes I will be sad about it a lot, but I can also be cheerful in my missing of home. I can be grateful to have a home so wonderful, so welcoming, to miss.

I love you, my Hawaiʻi. I will never, ever, get used to being away. But I do promise that I will see you soon. And I promise that from now on, I will see you often.

(Pick me up in baggage claim? We go straight to Rainbow’s, then Fort Ruger Market for boiled peanuts.)


Image via YouTube

*Okay by “we” I mean other people, because I am and always have been a chicken.

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