Settling In (Part 3)

For three weeks, I helped my parents look for an apartment. We looked in several communities in town – Makiki, Kalihi, Kapahulu, Mo`ili`ili. Too small, too far from the garage, too close to the highway, too many apartments on one floor, too many people with pets, too many people at the swimming pool.

One day, after assuring yet another building manager that we would call him tomorrow, I muttered to my mom on our way to the car, “I don’t understand why none of these apartments are good enough. What do you want, anyway?”

“We got used to the beach and the ocean. But we don’t want to live in Waikiki. Too many tourists,” she replied.

“You live by the beach now. You don’t like it there, remember?”  I felt like a petulant child but couldn’t resist it.

“Don’t worry, Trina,” dad said. “We’ll find something soon.”

*****

Their apartment hunting went on for four more weeks — without me. I suggested that it might be easier for them to look for a place without my butting in. They agreed.

In the meantime, I did some hunting of my own. I had come to realize that I didn’t like Lanikai much either. I rarely socialized with my rich neighbors, and they didn’t seem to care either way. Besides, after the way my parents were treated, I lost whatever neighborly aloha I might have felt towards them.

Mom and dad finally found a small apartment unit in a two-story walk-up in the Salt Lake area.  The neighborhood was congested and noisy, but my dad thought it would be quiet during the day because everyone else would be at work.

I asked them to go holo-holo (cruising) with me to the North Shore the next Sunday morning. “We’ll have brunch on the way,” I suggested.

We ate at a popular Kahuku oceanside hotel, and by 1 PM, we were driving along Sunset Beach on the North Shore. “Look,” my mom point out the window, “there’s a Catholic Church. And look at those yards. See the kalamunggai trees? There must be a lot of Filipinos living here.” I chuckled and kept driving.

I turned onto Papailoa Drive, a narrow road makai (ocean-side) of the highway in Hale`iwa. Except for its shoreline location, it was hard to tell that this narrow stretch of houses fronting Papailoa Beach was pricey real estate.  What were once exclusive summer homes of rich town folks now comprised an eclectic mixture of 40-year old tropical houses with an assortment of cottages and nouveau riche beach palaces. 

The kids kicking the soccer ball around in the street were typical of Hawai`i, a mixed bag.  I drove by a cream-colored Lexus, a rusty Dodge SUV, a souped-up Honda and three Harleys in a row before I entered a short driveway.

As I walked towards the front of the house, my dad said with one foot out of the car, “Trina, wait.  Whose house is this?  We’re not dressed for visiting.  Plus, we didn’t bring anything to share.”

“Just follow me,”  I responded, and they obeyed, albeit with great reluctance.

The vacated wooden house was of old vintage, but held up well.  It smelled old and salty and the screen door handles were slightly rusty.  But the white and light yellow paint on the interior walls seemed young, like new skin on a crab shedding its old shell.  We walked into a big living room that blended into the nearby shoreline and panoramic ocean views. 

We peeked into four small bedrooms and checked out old fashioned bathrooms.  My parents glanced my way every now and then, wondering what I was up to.

We went to the back door and looked out. I could tell that they liked what they saw. The backyard had character; it was perfect for the abutting beach. Part of the yard was slightly rolling, with grass poking out of small sand piles. There was even a small plastic yellow bucket with a red shovel abandoned in the corner of the yard.

We made our way to the kitchen, in the middle of which was a huge well-used woodblock table. The ceramic knobs of the glass kitchen cabinet doors were yellowed by ghosts of previous residents. I stood in the middle of the kitchen and announced, “Next month, this is where we’re having our Sunday brunches.”

******

My parents immediately felt at home. My mom had the neighborhood kids over within a week, and she taught the next door twins how to crochet. Dad started a garden, and soon shared his papayas, kalamunggai leaves and eggplants with our Filipino, haole (Caucasian), Japanese and Hawaiian neighbors. A few times, the retired Chinese engineer from down the street helped him with the tilling and weeding. Sometimes they shared a beer on our front porch.

One day, dad took a nap because he was very tired after thinning out our mungo bean trellis. He never woke up. Our neighbors came to the funeral, and brought over dinner every night for two weeks.

Eventually, I had to hire an architect to retrofit our house for ADA standards because mom needed a wheelchair to get around. The kids still came over, and sometimes I had to referee arguments about who got to push her wheelchair. When she died, a couple of the neighborhood girls asked me if I wanted them to sleep over at my house to keep me company. Of course I said yes.

This morning, as I walked along the beach, I stopped to watch some kids trying to stand on a surfboard in shallow water. One of the kids fell and cut his head. It wasn’t a bad cut, but he was scared and crying. I brought him and his friends to my house. I patched him up, and gave them some juice and snacks.

One of the girls peered into the living room. She looked at me and said, “Eh lady, dis one real nice house, man. How come you get dis house? You wen marry one haole?”

I laughed and said, “I’m single.   I was lucky to find this house for me and my parents.”

“Hol!” she exclaimed in awe. She scrutinized my face. “So, what nationality you anyway?”

I looked her straight in the eye and said, “I’m Filipino.”

Note: Parts 1 and 2 are pretty much the original short story, but for some reason, I felt I needed to tweak a few scenes in Part 3.  Though the plot remains the same, the storyteller changed lens a bit, or perhaps just matured as a writer.

2 thoughts on “Settling In (Part 3)

  1. Ah, Berna! I cried when the parents died! I really liked how she came to understand herself and who/where she really wanted to be. She embraced herself. 🙂

    Well done, my friend, well done! 😀

    • Sorry it made you sad! You’re right about her understanding and embrace; I didn’t think about that. Thanks for the insight. I was concerned about geographic references. Were they a distraction or problem when you read it?

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