7.31.2008

The Scent of Pikake


Informant: Male/age 63 years/ Caucasian-Hawaiian ancestry
Location: Oahu, Diamond Head/ Los Angeles, Silverlake District, California

In my family, there is an old family tale that if you ever smell pikake when there are no flowers to be seen, it means someone who has "passed" is in your presence. After my Dad passed, my Mom claimed she used to get the pikake scent all the time in our house at Diamond Head, particularly in the kitchen for some reason. At the same time that she'd smell pikake, our dog Ele'ele, who simply worshiped my dad, would go bonkers, barking like crazy.

Curiously, on my last visit to Hawaii I drove by the old house and the new owners were out front so I stopped and introduced myself. When I asked what they thought of the house, the wife just blurted out: "We used to think the place was haunted." When I asked why she thought that, the woman said: "We've lived here about 20 years and when we first moved in, from time to time, I swear I could heard someone strumming an ukulele out on the lanai. No one in our family plays an ukulele and we don't even own one. This ukulele things eventually stopped about 15 years ago. Then, there was this dog. Once in awhile I'd be looking out the kitchen window and see this black dog lying in the grass in the back yard. The yard is completely fenced and when we'd go into the backyard to check, the dog was never there. None of the neighbors had a dog like that. We stopped seeing the dog about the time the ukulele music stopped."

I then wished the couple well and, with chicken skin in full eruption, I left without telling them that my dad, who passed away in the house, was an expert ukulele player nor did I mention our black dog, Ele'ele. I later realized that their ukulele and dog experiences probably ceased about the same time that my Mom passed away. I'm hoping they all found one another in the hereafter.

In 1993 I moved from Oregon to Los Angeles to accept a new job and immediately began looking to buy a home. One day, a friend of mine, my realtor and I went to see a house in the Silverlake district. My realtor told us that no one was home and we could spend as much time at the house as we wished. 

After one initial tour of the house, I was very impressed and definitely interested in it. I then decided to go back upstairs to take another look at the bedrooms while my friend and realtor chatted out by the pool. As I got to the top of the stairs, an elderly Asian woman walked past me down the hall. As she passed, she glanced at me, expressionless, and said nothing. Startled, I immediately apologized for intruding, explained that I had thought no one was home, turned around, and began quickly going back down the stairs. 

When I got outside, I told my realtor that someone was home because an old lady had just scared the crap out of me upstairs. The realtor swore no one was home and called the listing agent who confirmed that a young couple lived in the house and they were both at work. As she was talking on the phone, we all noticed a strong sent of jasmine (pikake). I looked around and saw no indication of blooming jasmine. It was then that I remembered our old family tale. 

At that, I said, "Let's get the hell out of here. This place gives me the creeps." Just as I said this, we heard a loud bang like a door slamming upstairs and we immediately raced one another for the front door. As we darted through the living room I took a closer look at a large portrait of an elderly Asian woman that was hanging on the wall above the fireplace. It was the lady I had seen upstairs! 

When we got back to our cars, I told the realtor about the picture of the lady and I insisted that my realtor find out who she was. The listing agent reported that the picture was that of the owner's Mother who had passed away several years ago. Needless to say, I did not make an offer on the house!

1 comments:

Anonymous said...

God this is creepy and well written! Plus I got to know what I was looking for in the first place - what pikake smells like - jasmine I presume. Thanks :).