One of my sabbatical goals is to write a novel based on my experience of attending high school in Hawaii. Here’s another excerpt (the first one I shared is here). I’m thinking about switching the narrative to first-person, so I’ve experimented with that today.
The military paid for 30 days of temporary lodging, so all 5 of us crammed into a hotel room with two queen beds and a pull-away, to await the arrival of our household goods. My two brothers shared a queen bed and, as, the only female child, I enjoyed the luxury of the sleeping on the pull-away. We spent the days on the beach and at night enjoyed the occasional treat of an in-room movie. Every day, my mother would call the phone number to ask if our stuff had yet arrived to the island only to be told, no word yet. After about a week of listening to, “Ok, thank you.” We heard, “Oh, wonderful! Thank you very much.” And we knew our things had arrived. It was time to move in.
The excitement of seeing our new home quickly dissipated when we visited military quarters and found that the house was full of mold and literally leaning to one side, as if after years on the island, it had adopted the relaxed, Hawaiian attitude of “Shaka-brah.” My mother refused to accept the quarters, so we were referred to the housing office at Camp Smith and the lady who staffed the desk helped us find a 4BR/3BA house in Hawaii Kai, on the south eastern tip of the island. Walking in the front door was better (this house seemed to be straight) but we were greeted with orange shag carpet. It was a four-bedroom, one story house, about half the size of our home in Virginia and many years older. My parents had warned me and my brothers that the real estate in Hawaii was much more expensive than in Virginia and we would have to live in a smaller home, but I was unprepared for how small and intimate this house felt. At least my room felt somewhat private, as it was close to the garage and had its own bathroom. My brothers would have to share a bathroom, and my parents had their own bathroom within their master “suite,” meaning, it was open within their room, but at least the toilet was in a small closet-sized room with a door. As we toured the house, we chose our rooms like we always had…parents got the master bedroom, then I got to choose a room, then my middle brother, and then the youngest. Age had its privileges. I asked for the master bedroom even though I knew my parents would say no, but it was fun to be slightly annoying to them. I knew as soon as we walked through the house which room would be mine. I was curious, though, as to which room my brother Matthew would choose. His two options were 1) a room that was small but private, on the opposite side of the house from her, barely big enough to fit a twin bed and a dresser; and 2) the room that perhaps had served as an office and was in the strangest of locations. It was in the center of the house, between my room and the small bedroom. From the small bedroom side, one entered this pseudo-room through a door, but on the side where my room was, there were closet doors so you could push them to the sides and the room felt completely open. It was the larger of the two bedroom choices, so Matthew chose it, but for a moment I thought he might opt for the privacy of the smallest room.
Once room assignments had been decided, we each spent a few minutes visually placing our furniture in our rooms in preparation for the arrival of our physical goods. Then we quickly transitioned to exploring the house while there was still plenty of room to move about and open and shut doors. The big disappointment was the backyard. It was small with no grass, only tree roots and few flat areas for me to practice cheerleading.
To save money, we moved out of the hotel and into the house, sleeping on borrowed futons. I had never heard of a futon. I liked how the lady at the housing office who loaned the 5 futons to them pronounced it like a foreign word, fu-TAWN instead of FOO-tawn, which is how my parents had pronounced it. We moved in to the rental home two days before our household goods delivery date, which gave us enough time to fumigate the house after waking up the first morning with multiple flea bites. “It was supposed to be a no-pet house!” shrieked the real estate agent when my mother called to complain. “They (the former tenants) must have been hiding a small dog there whenever I came to visit.” The house had been vacant for four months, and apparently the fleas were ravenous by the time my family had arrived and set ourselves down on the fuTAWNs, like a 5-course bufFAY.
I loved move-in days. They were like a homecoming and Christmas wrapped into one. I would get a glimpse of my mother’s leadership skills and organizational power, as she planned out where the various pieces of furniture would be placed and kindly managed the movers as they carried the boxes into the front door. This time, I was old enough to be put in charge of reviewing the boxes as they entered. My mother handed over three pages of numbers that corresponded to the stickers that had been placed on the boxes by the movers in Virginia. I quickly scanned the inventory and found my things, boxes 289 – 304, including items like #291 – “Girl’s bike” and #297 – “Girl’s Dresser” and the mysterious 300 – “Box – Books,” which was the default description the movers would write on a box when they didn’t want to get into details (my mother whispered out of the side of her mouth that it was better for security reasons to not say too much about the contents, lest thieves quickly pick out which boxes had the best contents for plucking in the storage units in between destinations).
The movers grunted out the number as they walked in, but I started playing a game of trying to find the number before they could vocalize it. As they rounded the corner, I quickly scanned the box, found the tag, and noted the number before they could say it. Then it was like a premonition-come-true when the mover would utter that exact number. Best were the pieces of large furniture, wrapped in brown moving paper, as I would place a private wager that this sofa was #123 – Living room sofa, blue rather than #267 Family room sofa, brown. I checked off the appropriate box on my sheets of paper and pointed the movers to the correct room. I relished the authority.