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My Kind of Town

by Don Chapman

Tuesday, October 8, 2002


Adoption agency


>> Kaimuki

Her name is Kate. Rhymes with hate.

That was just one of the sing-song teases she'd endured on the playground back at Kainalu Elementary.

Kate, Kate, she'll never get a date.

Even then there was something different about her. Detached, quiet, as if she were peeking out at the world from behind a dark corner, not a true participant in anything, neither reaching out nor knowing how to react when an occasional soft-hearted girl like Mary Kihikihi would reach out and try to involve her in conversation.

But it wasn't for lack of yearning. Oh, how she wanted to belong. She just didn't know how. Born addicted to cocaine because her mother was, Kate's brain function was altered from the start. She seemed to spend most of her childhood alone while her mother was out "partying."

There was never a father because her mother didn't know who the father was, it could have been any of several guys she'd seen that week. If they'd supply, she'd lie. Then one night when Kate was 8 her mom OD'd in Chinatown. Kate's aunt Pattie -- "do not call me auntie, it makes me sound old" -- took her in. Kate got a room and basic food and cable TV and not much more, certainly not affection or attention.

She didn't graduate from Kalaheo High and over the years worked as a dishwasher and night janitor, seldom keeping a job long, and never making friends, getting by largely because she'd managed to figure out the food stamp thing and TheBus routes.

And now, at last, at age 29, here in her studio apartment, Kate had a beautiful family. They smiled back at her from framed photographs, gracing the new bookshelf she'd bought for them.

Her family started at her last office-cleaning job. On a shelf behind the desk were a dozen family photos. The desk occupant wouldn't miss one. Kate snatched a framed photo -- mom, dad, two kids in front of a Christmas tree -- and brought it home.

But like a child asking for a baby brother or sister, they wanted company. So to make them happy she'd adopted a family in Aina Haina. And they too had begged for a bigger family, so Kate adopted another family in Pearl City. She had grandpas and grandmas and moms and dads and brothers and sisters and uncles and aunts and nieces and nephews, even godparents. And they were all asking for more. There was a third house she knew, not far from here on 16th Avenue.

Armed with nothing more than a TheBus pass, a desert camouflage backpack big enough to go camping for a week and a Swiss Army knife with 42 attachments, Kate went adopting.




Don Chapman is editor of MidWeek.
His serialized novel runs daily in the Star-Bulletin
with weekly summaries on Sunday.
He can be e-mailed at dchapman@midweek.com



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