my childhood in a coconut shell

I’m originally from a place called Waianae, which is a small town on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Most people imagine a life in Hawaii would include sipping from coconuts on the beach, surfing all day, or going to Luaus on the weekends. But in my little corner of the island it was very much a country lifestyle.

© Lisa Coker Photography

The road leading to my childhood home

I lived a couple of minutes away from a pig farm, 3 minutes from a chicken farm, and thankfully, the farm across the street from my house did not have livestock. It was a green onion farm, so my morning walks to the bus stop had a pleasant smell in the air.

© Lisa Coker Photography

The bus I would use to get to places

There were no paved sidewalks on my street, just dirt and gravel next to our one lane road that most people drove recklessly on. We once had a car crash through our fence into our front yard. So we were forbidden to ride our bikes on the street. Of course, if mom had forgotten an ingredient for dinner, then sending one of the boys to the convenience store around the corner would be a valid exception. We called it the pink store.

© Lisa Coker Photography

The “pink store”

There were five of us: three boys and two girls (my mom adopted 4 more children later in life). I am the second oldest. I am thankful I have so many siblings, not just because they’re awesome, but also because there was not much going on in our neighborhood and no other kids to be found. So with our boredom combined, we became very creative in entertaining ourselves. We climbed trees that towered over our house, then we climbed on our house, we held Mortal Kombat tournaments, we pretended to be chefs, we played pool with an old rusty metal table that just happened to have a hole in one corner. We had some great memories.

My older brother and I

We had some not-so-great memories as well.

My dad passed away when I was just 11 years old. He died of lung cancer. As a child I would hear about scary things like death, and it didn’t seem real because they’re just so far away from this innocent, carefree world I lived in. But then that scary unreal thing happens to you and suddenly life is very confusing. I think most of us can remember a pivotal moment in our youth where we became very confused, and so we spend most of our life just trying to make sense of it all. At least that’s what I did.

© Lisa Coker Photography

The road with the “dip” that we loved going on, near my childhood home

This very big and sad thing that happened in my childhood taught me that nothing in life is certain. This is why I love photography. While memories fade in your mind, photos preserve the certainty of a moment. You look at a picture and know the people in it are real, that moment captured is real, that old house you grew up in is real. I can show my children a picture of my dad and they will know grandpa was real.

Our stories are important not just for you to hold on to but also for generations to come. These photos are more for your children than they are for you. It is an immeasurable gift to be able to document and pass on your family’s story through pictures.


The name of the streets I grew up on

Add a comment...

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

  • I’m sorry to hear about the passing of your father. I love the image above of the two of you! <3 ReplyCancel

  • What a beautiful place to grow up! Thanks for sharing. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Loved reading your story! The photos of your town make me want to visit sometime. You wee, all we go through bad stuff in life, some suffer at an early age, some later in life, but in all cases I think life teaches us many things, makes us who we are. Keep the photos comin’!ReplyCancel

    • Thank you so much Maliha! Life definitely has a way of helping us grow and shaping us into who we need to be.ReplyCancel

  • This is lovely.  I’m from the tropics in Queensland, Australia, and your images remind me of my home.  Lovely stories. ReplyCancel

  • I miss Hawaii!  This is the Hawaii I remember!  I really do wish I would have witnessed the sitting on the beach drinking out of coconuts!  LOL … we missed that part.  ReplyCancel

    • Haha! Exactly Carly! Maybe the next time I go back to visit I’ll try to figure out where they get to sip out of coconuts lol. Probably somewhere in Waikiki.ReplyCancel