Aloha e na Readers -
My name is Abigail Keānuenueonālani Kaiāulu and Swimming Sideways is my story. Everyone calls me Abby. The rest of my name is Hawaiian, because my dad is Hawaiian (my mom is white in case you were wondering). My middle name means A rainbow from heaven because on the day I was born my Poppa saw a rainbow. He said it was a good sign because rainbows in Hawaiian culture are associated with the birth of chiefs. So far, I think I’m a disappointment to my name, but Poppa would tell me to be patient. My last name is a wind - a gentle breeze - that comes in from the ocean to the Westside, my Waianae homeland.
I have spent all of my life on the island of Oʻahu except for the summers hanging out with my Grandma Bev (she’s my mom’s mom) in Oregon and now Arizona. I have a lot of fond memories of those summers in Oregon: a friend named Seth; the tall trees; Grandma Bev’s laugh; playing in the woods behind her house; building sandcastles at the beach. Visiting Arizona is different and less frequent now that Grandma Bev does a lot of traveling with her group of retired friends during the summers. My favorite place to be is home, on Oʻahu, in the ocean. I love to surf. Poppa taught me.
Everything changed for me a couple of years ago, when my Poppa died. He raised my twin brothers and me because our parents worked. He taught me everything I know about Hawaiian culture (which I wish was more now. I wish I’d been a better listener). When he died, my family fell apart. I fell apart, and made some choices I wish I could take back. That’s when the incident occurred, and it impacted my world at school too. Needless to say, the last year or so has been hell on earth.
My mom and Dad told us we are moving to Oregon. They’ve been fighting a lot, and I’m pretty confident that this decision is my mom’s. She’s originally from Oregon, so it’s what she knows. At first, I was upset about it, but the more time I’ve had to consider the opportunity it presents for a fresh start, I don’t find myself as antagonistic toward the idea. Dad said that Hawaiians were explorers: they navigated the sea using the stars to find Hawaii, so now we’re going to do some exploring.
Here’s what I think: Explorer or not, it’s my job to make sure no one finds out about The Incident at my new school in Oregon. That means that I have to do everything right, because I can’t face my junior and senior year in the same social dump where I’ve spent my freshman and sophomore years. I’m also hoping that my family will find a way to make it through these rough seas. When my Poppa was teaching me to surf, he said how important it is to watch the ocean before getting into it. Be an observer, he’d said. He also said that sometimes we all get caught in a rip current. If that happens, Tita, don’t fight it. Swim sideways out of it. So, that’s what I’m trying to do: Swim Sideways.
I hope you enjoy my story.