Who the heck is Kaui Bryan Lucas?
Even if more than anything save DNA growing up in the Hawaiian archipelago has determined my path, I am puzzled when somebody asks me where I’m from, and then congratulates me, as if it were something I’d earned. I do take credit for choosing to live most of my life in Hawai’i, as well as editing that most usual of personal identifiers, my name. A couple of days ago at a high school reunion planning meeting I saw a version of my name I’d never seen before, Kaui (short for my middle name, Kaulana) Bryan (my maiden name) Lucas (my maternal grandmother’s name, which I took following a divorce in ’06 and absolutely love because it’s short and I don’t have to spell it out for people.)
Chatting genealogy with my niece Maile not long ago, so happy that she has been actively archiving family lore, I discovered a problem. Much to my surprise, she wasn’t sure what my birth name was. Even for family tree given to frequent pruning and grafting, apparently my periodic rebranding has had unintended consequences.
A recent birthday seemed like a good time to sit down and clear the record. Like Barry Obama (who is also using a different than the one he used at Punahou) I was born at Kapiʻolani Hospital. For the record, my birth certificate reads: Christiane Kaulana Bryan. I was named Christiane after my father’s godmother, whom I never learned anything about, except my mother liked her name. My mother died when I was nine. If there is something you’ve long wondered about in your family, but haven’t gotten around to asking. . . you have my permission to ask whomever it is, NOW.
Kaiku’ana Mary Mapuana Bryan didn’t have a choice. She was going to be a Mary. Both our grandmothers were Marys. AND, Mapuana was born auspiciously close to our great-grandmother Mary Papapaupu (Nauepu) Bannister Lucas’s 100th birthday. “Mapuana” was chosen by our Dad because there was a beautiful Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant with that name. Sister Mapuana had a hard time pronouncing it as a baby, and called herself Mana instead, so that’s what she was known as until she went to Punahou in the 7th grade. Our parents Shada and Ed Bryan lived on Ewa Sugar Plantation. The father of Mapuana-the-flight-attendant was a plumber who lived nearby in Hono’uli’uli. Why do I know so much about her name but next-to-nothing about mine? Oh yeah, she’s Kaikuʻana.
I’m equally clueless about my middle name, Kaulana. It is not one historically in the family. Mother’s middle name, Ilikealiʻi has been reissued a couple of times in the 5 generations since it first appeared on any record I know of. Part of it “ilikea,” means “fair-complexioned person.” So it is not likely from further back than the two pre-1778 generations I do have of our moʻokūʻauhau.
I’d like to think mother consulted with her grandmother, Mary Papapaupu (Nauepu) Bannister Lucas. Nana was 101 when I was born. Sometime towards the end of her life (103) she stopped speaking English and reverted back to her mother tongue, ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi. Childhood friends of my mother reported to me that when a baby was born in the Lucas’s circle, Nana would go and check on the the baby, and practice appropriate Hawaiian protocol.
My mother, typical for her early 1920’s generation, only knew a few flavoring particles in Hawaiian. Phrases used when you didn’t want children to understand, or euphemisms for indelicate English words. Like kūkae, or puhi’u. Fascinating that the ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi was socially acceptable whereas the English was not. Anyway, it is not at all clear that Nana at 101 had anything to do with choosing my name.
So where did Kaui come from? Short answer: Kaui is to Kaulana what Christi is to Christiane. As a child I was called Christie. Seventh grade I changed it to Christi. By 9th grade I was ready for the real deal: Chris-ti-ane. Only hardly anyone would pronounce it correctly with 3 syllables ending in”ahn.” I ALWAYS had to spell it. . . except the three years I lived in Europe, where it is so common the tourist kiosks have “Christiane” keychains and coffee mugs.
The long answer is a complicated tragedy of deaths, divorce, unnatural catastrophic events, and lawsuits compressed into a couple of years about a decade ago. Perhaps you’ve also survived a phase of life where the biblical character Job resonates? Or you’ve maybe had some fairly public experience drenched in catastrophe? Hopefully you have no idea what I’m referring to. In any event, the aftermath of that emotional carnage left me wanting to be someone else, someone other than the woman whose life was so painful most people at the mall couldn’t look her in the eye. Or if they did, she didn’t want to remember which tragedy they were probably thinking of when they recognized her.
If I had to do it over, I would still ditch Christiane (except when in Europe,) but not shorten Kaulana. Honestly, I didn’t know another Kaui was going to publish a book about a complicated family with land on Kauai and become really famous. Oh well. @KauiLucas is great for social media. Also,”kaui” is not a Hawaiian word. It’s doesn’t mean anything, it’s just a name. Bonus: even over the phone with my punitively enforced pidgin-free English, I don’t have to explain that Hawaiʻi Is My Main Land.