Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Forced Family Fun

(This is an ongoing little series about my move to Hawaii when I was 9.  Click here to start reading from the beginning.  Or, go back a little more to here to read stories about West Point and Savannah.)

One of the many gifts my parents gave my sister and me was the ability to explore.  As an Army family, we knew we'd move sooner or later (and usually, it was sooner).  We wanted to maximize the years spent in one place.  I remember my mom saying, "We've only got a few years here.  Let's get to know this place."  One of the teachers at the school we just started at confessed to my mother that, she'd neither left the island in her 30-ish years nor seen all the beaches on it.  That seemed crazy to all of us.  We were soon determined to see every sandy nook and cranny on Oahu.

It was probably my dad, the Decider of All Things, who thought up the idea of going to a different beach on every Sunday.  Unlike the tourists, we had a car.  Unlike the tourists, we quickly realized there were more beaches than Waikiki.  So, every Sunday we went to mass and then grabbed our beach bags and off we went, driving to one of the many beaches around the island.  I was content being the passenger in our car, and in our family.  I was thick in daydream as we passed high cliffs with houses perched on the top (was that really Elvis' house on the north shore? I wondered) and miles of perfectly blue ocean (who goes to all of these different beaches? I wondered).

I was an oblivious type of kid who left details up to my big sister.  I quickly forgot the names of this beach or that cove.  But the names didn't matter.  I was happy to be driven wherever, and I did the same thing at each beach: I read.  At the beginning of our beach trips, I guess with the remaining pout I had left from moving too soon, I drew a stupid line in the sand.  I declared that I didn't like how, after swimming in the gorgeous Pacific, the warm, perfectly white sand clung to my clumsy bare feet when I walked back to my towel.  Grumpy me decided the best spot on the beach was between two trees, where my dad would hang a hammock for me.  I swung in the shady spots with breeze, reading, for hours.  Take that, sand.
My family and I lived on Schofield Barracks,
which is right next to Wahiawa,
which is smack-dab in the center of the island.

I'm pretty sure I soon realized how silly this was, how much I was missing out on, but since I had declared that I didn't like something, I stuck by my decision, however silly I seemed and however stubborn I looked.  Silly and stubborn were better than admitting I was wrong.

Unlike me, my big sister was never wrong.  Two years older than me, she somehow knew everything that I didn't, and more.  Her rightness and sanctitude around it was an incredible mystery to me.  She always delivered the news that I was, once again, wrong.  And she'd say what she had to say with such clarity that I never doubted her rightness and my wrongness.  She was savvier than I ever was, could read between the lines in a way I never could.  I was in awe at her ability to roll her eyes, huff loudly as she stormed off, glare in disgust at my parents.  These were things I wouldn't attempt, let alone master.

It was my always-right big sister who named these Sunday trips to random beaches "Forced Family Fun."  It was her sarcastic mind that nicknamed them in that sorta-funny, sorta-mean, sorta-true way.  No amount of shave ice could convince her that being with her family on isolated beaches was better than being with the gang of friends who were at a small list of cool beaches.  Whereas I was content on being driven to wherever to sit and read in the peaceful breeze, my big sister wanted to be in the driver's seat, telling us where to go on our Sunday trips.  Now I see that my dad was figuring out the balance between remaining a tight family of four and loosening the reins to let in other influences on us girls' lives.  He really thought he had the balance right.

My sister's rightness on insisting my dad was, for once in his life, wrong made Hawaii a tumultuous time for our family.


  1. Kate, I'm totally hooked on your Hawaii stories. You have a wonderful knack for bringing to life the family characters. Your "decider of all things" and "sister who is always right" tags truly help to define the family members. Thanks for continuing the journey!

    1. thank you so much! I'm having fun practicing character development, suspense, etc in these short slices...

  2. So lovely to meet a new family member. This is lovely to hear about how your wise mum encouraged you to explore your surroundings to the fullest. My favourite phrase.... "I was thick in daydream as we passed high cliffs" such a great word for this... "thick." Just loved it. :)

  3. Oh "triple F"...funny how some years away gives perspective. Time takes time.