Dear Ms. Feverfew –
I woke in the wee small hours of the morning (as I frequently do with this pregnancy), and ever since then, I have been consumed with cravings for pani popo. Oh what I wouldn’t give for some of those warm, sticky, sweet coconut buns to just…poof!!! magically appear in my oven.
Then, in the shivering, shimmering darkness of a January morning, with nothing but my bedside alarm clock illuminating my wide-awake eyes, it really hit me…
You probably don’t know how to make pani popo. A nearly full grown woman who is half Samoan by blood and by birthright doesn’t know how to make pani popo.
But me, a palagi, a haole, does.
And I then I wept.
Silent, hot tears of shame for what I have done to both you and your Samoan grandmother Berta, the one who taught me how to make pani popo but never had the chance to teach you. I deprived both of you of what you rightfully deserve and is so vital to the Samoan culture: family. I cut you off from that heritage when I relinquished you to adoption and that, dear Ms. Feverfew, simply isn’t right.
Then more questions tumbled out through my tears. Do you even own a lavalava? Have you been to a fiafia? Do you know where Apia is located? Pago Pago? Do you know the difference between Western and American Samoa? Did you learn to dance the Taualunga, the Sasa, or the Siva fia? Have you ever worn a sei? Do you know what ou te alofa outou or talo’fa mean? Could you recognize pani popo, palusami, koko araisa, fa’alify fa’i, or vaisu? Would you like them as much as I do?
While this mother hopes all of these questions can be answered in the affirmative, I realized this morning that more likely than not, they will be answered in the negative. It would be an absolute miracle for an island girl like yourself to discover those kinds of things in the small, land-locked farming community you have grown up in.
Today, I am going to believe in miracles because I cannot undo what is done. Today, I am going to believe that your adoptive parents (who know full well you are 1/2 Samoan and 1/2 palagi) were wise enough to provide you with experiences, connections, and people who would help you understand and embrace that side of you. That is my plan for today.
Tomorrow might be a different story though.
Much love and belief –