Centipedes are known to most as scary, fast, and harmful. I on the other hand am quite beautiful, slow, and harmless.
I am a hapa- centipede; my mother was raised in the jungles of Brazil, my father, a gecko, was a dancer from Dumber Ireland.
As a young Gecko, my father joined a children's theatre troupe where he learned tap. Years later, his journeys took him far away to America where he studied with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. They taught him ballroom, swing, and Latin dances. He returned to Ireland to learn his country's folk dance: Clog or Clogging. He was the headliner,”The Star”, to most of his fan’s he was “Zap”, short for Zapato. He brought his vision of purity and style to La Fille mal gardée, mesmerizing his audiences to the point of tears.
My father had a slender build, zero body fat, and chartreuse eyes which sparkled as he took to the stage. His feet were an instrument in the orchestra as they set the beat, tapping with jet fast speed, setting a counterpoint to the high pitched woodwinds, drum rolls and thin violin sounds. The audiences’ responses ranged from frenzied screaming to awed, stone deaf quiet. When the show ended forty-some minutes later, Zap would stand at attention, sweat dripping from head to tail, and then bow for each of the multiple standing ovations for his amazing foot work.
The longest running show in Ireland came to a close after three years of sold-out performances. Zap and his troupe headed to Hawaii for a tour of the Sandwich Islands.
Mom was the world’s best artistic dancer, known for her classical ballet, tango, rumba and foxtrot. She danced the salsa in Mexico, the Irish jig in Ireland, and the polka in Germany. She traveled to New York to dance at Carnegie Hall before President Truman. The Queen of England damed her at the tender age of 18 for her extraordinary virtuosity as a recitalist and actress. Under the stage name Rond de Jambe, she danced the only one women show in the Follies Bergere. She was known for her rendition of the Can- Can, where each set of legs were dressed in mauve tones, tight fishnet stockings with bold dark red seams strutting upwards towards her pure silky white bloomers. Her spike heels glistened with gold and silver glitter. Her petticoats were handmade by her second cousin, Moni, a silk worm that made her way from France to the jungles of her Brazilian relatives.
Mom’s strikingly long legs would kick far above her head, every other leg lifting in unison, as her petticoats ruffled to the 2/4 time beat and slowly folded back to silence as the music stopped. After each curtain call, Mom would wow the audiences with her grand ecart: a cartwheel.
The romance, the saga, the fable, the yarn, the parable, call it what you want, started on May 22, 1939, at a chance meeting at the Captain’s table of the S. S. Matsonia during its maiden voyage to the Sandwich Islands. Mom’s raised her glass of Mumm’s Cordon Bouge, 1929 Champagne, her pinky finger arched to the ceiling, and caught a view of Father on the opposite side of the table toasting with ale from Ireland. Her appetite was piqued by the Cornet of Parma Ham, Fresh Shad –Roe with Dill, Papaya Nectar, Artichokes with Musseline sauce and Imported Sardines in Oil and the enchanting spectacle before her.
The cigarette smoke and music of Carmen enveloped them as they strolled on deck in the bright moon light, the saltiness in the air clinging to them as Dad chattered about his latest performances. The evening came to a close as Dad softly stoked Mom’s rouged cheeks and kissed her painted lips. Her heart felt a twinkle and the expectancy of the music they would perform together.
As the S.S Matsonia docked at Nawiliwili Harbor on the shores of the Garden Island, hula dancers clothed in grass skirts and plumeria leis welcomed their arrival. Their layover was to last only one month before traveling on to the other islands, but Dad wanted more out of life, as did Mom. They loved the aloha. They loved the culture. They adored Hanapepe Theatre.
They ended their tour and settled down to a life of marital calm and bliss living in the forest of Kokee and raising me and my three brothers. The storied romance could have ended there, but more arrivals from other parts of the world, including Brazil and Ireland, made Kauai their home. Soon little colonies popped up from Kokee to Hanalei. Once a year, the clan gathered in Hanapepe to hold a festival in Honor of Zap and Rond De Jambe, who would grace the stage and audiences with their versions of clog and ballet, plus a little hula performed by me, Celine Zapato.
Mom and Dad are now proud Grandparents. I met and married my husband, Fred “Daddy Long Legs.” You can just imagine what our kids look like!