By HUNTER BISHOP
Tribune-Herald staff writer
The Christmas lights are on again this year at Lynn Kinoshita’s Kahikini Street home.
For more than a decade she’s been making her display bigger and better than the year before.
Few would have blamed her for lacking that same zest for the holidays this year, as 2012 hasn’t exactly been kind to her.
Kinoshita’s sister died suddenly in January, then her father became severely disabled — “we’re helping take care of him,” she said — and in July, Kinoshita herself was diagnosed with hemochromatosis, an excess of iron in the body characterized by debilitating weakness, fatigue and loss of energy. “I’m so drained,” she said. “Most of the time I’m sleeping.”
The 51-year-old Kinoshita gets weekly phlebotomy treatments, essentially removing blood to reduce the iron in her body. She went in Tuesday for her 21st treatment in five months, and it could take years of these treatments to control the disorder.
“I’m generally a real positive person,” said the 1979 Hilo High grad. “I keep my spirit up through my faith in the Lord and celebrating the true meaning of Christmas, which is the birth of Jesus Christ.”
But her disorder and the treatments make her feel like “every week I’m in a boxing ring. I get up, and go right back down again.”
Kinoshita hasn’t worked in months, has practically no income and depends on her dwindling savings and family members to help pay mounting medical bills, even while her mother — “my guardian angel” — is the primary caregiver for her father.
Yet for the past 10 years, Kinoshita has been building one of the biggest and brightest displays of lighted, outdoor Christmas decorations in Sunrise Ridge. Last year, it was mentioned among the Tribune-Herald’s must-see displays, and lines of cars crowded Kahikini Street to enjoy it.
That was when she was still feeling well. This year you might think she’d chuck the whole idea and let somebody else decorate for the holidays. But not Kinoshita, whose lights this year are brighter than ever. Hemocromatosis may have slowed her down, but it’s not made a dent in her spirit.
“This is my way of giving back, to put a smile on people’s faces,” Kinoshita said. “I believe you have to be grateful for what you have, and count your blessings every day.”
Svetlana Shchedrina, who moved next door to Kinoshita from the mainland more than a year ago, has first-hand experience with her neighbor’s passion for Christmas spirit. Shchedrina and her husband, both from Russia, enjoy taking their two children, ages 3 1/2 and 1 1/2, on nightly walks to see Kinoshita’s Christmas offering.
“The chldren love it,” Shchedrina said. “We’re very thankful to Lynn. She’s a beautiful person … the warmest neighbor I ever knew.”
“This year tops everything,” said Terry Schlosberg, a friend who helped her put up the display. Schlosberg, Kinoshita’s 16-year-old son Brentson, and her cousin, A.J. Kubo, spent several days helping her install the elaborate collection of ornaments and lights. “They asked me, ‘Are you sure?’ and I said, ‘If it makes people happy, I want to do it.i” This year, even more lights and decorations were added to make it her biggest display yet.
“Her pleasure is in giving pleasure back to the community,” Schlosberg said. “She has a very giving heart.”
Kinoshita estimates spending more than $1,000 on the display over the years and expects her December electric bill to double. But none of that matters. “As long as I can pay my mortgage and put food on the table, it’s worth it. It’s a labor of love.”
“I’m so blessed,” she said. “I would love for people to come and see it. This year’s more special.”
You can see the display from 5:45-9 p.m. every day at 370 Kahikini St. in Sunrise Ridge, where the true spirit of Christmas meets a heart of pure gold.
Email Hunter Bishop at firstname.lastname@example.org.