My younger days were simple, laid back, and full of imagination. We didn’t have much. Neither sets of grandparents had much. I did have some toys, but I spent a lot of time engaged in imaginary play.
I wanted to share some pictures of my and Uncle AJ playing together, but my scanner wouldn’t work. Uncle AJ is my dad’s youngest brother, who happens to be a mere 8 years older than myself. He’s like an older brother to me. We spent a lot of time making forts with the couch cushions and Lelang’s (my great-grandmother) handmade quilts. We would turn the short stools my grandparents had at the small counter and sit between the legs pretending we were driving a car.
Even as I grew older and collected more toys, I still engaged in imaginary play with friends. There was lots of pretending to be Charlie’s Angels or Remington Steele. The fact is, we played outside. All the time. My friends never came over to watch TV or play video games.
At one point, we had a play room. This was when we lived in a 2-storey home with more bedrooms than we had people. 6 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, sunken living room, dining room, family room, and living room. This was a house that my parents had built so it was brand new when we moved in. I got to choose which room would be mine and asked for a dutch door for my bedroom door. Nothing like having the sense that the door is closed, but not really. I think my parents liked that they could look in on me without having to actually open the door.
Back to the play room. My parents had their ping pong table in there, which took up much of the room. When I had friends over to spend the night, we’d sleep in there and watch the stars and planes going through the night sky…pretending it was an Imperial Destroyer come to wipe us out.
These were the days where “play dates” did not exist. You walked over to your friend’s house, knocked on the door, and asked if they could come out and play. Or you saw your friends playing outside already and you went out to join the fun. There were no cell phones to be able to check in and tell your parents where you were. You told them where you were going and that’s where you were. If you were planned going somewhere else, you called them from your friend’s house and told them. The simple mandate each day, be in before dark.
Back in those days, eating out meant going to a restaurant and ordering at the table from a server. Rarely, did we go to a fast food restaurant in my early years. Once my brother arrived, there was more McDonald’s, which became his preferred meal. He would not eat Chinese food when we’d go out and my parents would have to stop and get him a hamburger to eat at the restaurant. He was 4 the first time he went to Hawai`i with me. He had never really experienced local food. Or Filipino food for that matter. We were on Moloka`i with our grandparents and various other family members. Every mealtime he would exclaim, “I want MeeDonald’s!” That boy was SOL. There was no such thing as fast food on Moloka`i. It’s so laid back, it doesn’t really matter how long food took between ordering and having it set before you.
Kaunakakai, the main town on the island, finally had a pizzeria open during my college years. It was a bit shocking to come home to during a visit, but someone met a demand. Grandma always made sure she greeted me with home cooked food, though. And at some point during my visit she would always make my favorite clam dish. Nothing like picking up those clam shells and sucking the clam out along with the broth.
Maunaloa, the original plantation town on the island, where pretty much every family lived when they came to the islands to work the plantations, began to rebuild. Movie theater went in. KFC opened. Yes, KFC. An actual franchise. A Subway opened in Kaunakakai, too. I believe it was the Subway that opened before the KFC. I was a bit sad when they came to the island, but sometimes you can’t stop change. As long as we could still stand in a long line at the back of the bakery in town late at night for some fresh Hot Bread. Good things are worth waiting for.
My favorite part of going home and being with family is when we get together and the instruments appear. Guitars and ukulele (pronounced oo-koo, not yoo-koo) are strummed and requests are shouted out. “Blackbird!” “Sunday party!” “On and On!” This goes on for hours. No one cares about the TV or the computer. Those not gathered around are usually found nearby playing Pipito or Spoons.
There is magic in the air. I’m transported back to the days of my youth when my aunties, uncles, and older cousins would take me camping on the beach and we’d sit around the fire singing and playing. Or we’d craftily sneak out of the house after Grandma and Grandpa were sleeping to see one of my uncles play a gig at the resort. That was a mean feat, too. The house made lots of noises. My grandparents had a shell curtain in the doorway from the hall and the kitchen, which we had to carefully get through.
These days I’m surrounded by people who can’t live without their smart phones. It is as if they had them permanently attached to their hands. Kids are in front of video games all day rather than outside engaging their imagination and soaking up some natural Vitamin D. We want things as soon as we order them. We don’t want to stand in lines. We want to drive in special freeway lanes to avoid traffic. We can’t wait until we’re out of the car to make or take a call, or even text.
We buy, buy, buy. We have more food in our pantries than we can really eat in one week and that would last past a nuclear holocaust. If you think I missed the mark on that or need a visual, check out What Is On Family Dinner Tables Around the Globe. The gluttony of Americans is pretty apparent. I was pretty sad when I saw this yesterday. So much processed and refined foods. This is what happens when we want more, faster.
I make a conscious effort to not care if the line I am waiting in to check out is taking a long time to move. I enjoy the radio while stuck in traffic. I know that good food is worth the wait and takes time to make. I try to make sure I’m not buying more than we need. But yes, there are purchases that make at times that are what I want. Those are fewer and farther between.
For those of you who don’t follow my other blog, Hunter’s Lyonesse, we moved back in October. The day we were unpacking and I was in the dining room that looks out to the back, I heard noises. I had the blinds fully drawn and the windows open. I looked out and there were kids out back. Playing. Not sitting there with hand-held video games. Actual imaginary play. It was like I was a kid again. I vowed that I would never let the sounds of their play irritate me. They were outside playing the way kids should be playing. Now that it’s warming up again, some of the boys have taken to playing war games where they stand there a few feet from each other making shooting noises while pointing their guns at each other. No one was dying. I guess either no one wanted to die or today’s video games and movies have gotten to them thinking they can’t die. Either way, it’s cute and it made me laugh.