Sometimes, if researchers want more information about something, they will cut that thing straight across into a thin flat piece so that they can look at that slice through a microscope, up close, and see what the subject of their research is made of. A cross section never can tell the whole story, because it’s a sample. But looking at a cross section gives you a really different perspective than if you just looked at a thing from the outside. This past weekend there were so many activities that caused Eric and I to look at each other and say, “Only in Laie!” If you’re interested in knowing what it feels like for us to live in Laie, this cross-section might be entertaining to you:
GOING TO TOWN: Essie needed to visit her orthodontist’s office. She didn’t even need to see the doc, just pick up some plastic trays to keep her teeth on track until her next appointment. Sadly, there are no orthodontists located less than an hour from us, and since we had the necessary 3 unscheduled hours on Friday morning, we went. The drive to town each morning and home from town in the afternoon produces the worst traffic in the United States. Officially. But at 9:30 on Friday morning, there were almost no cars on the road. I drove about 43 mph for most of the trip. WHEEEEE! Across from Chinaman’s Hat, the surface of the ocean sparkled like someone had dropped their stash of diamonds on it, while the mountains extending back towards Kaneohe Bay looked like a work of ancient Japanese art, each layer of rock receding into mist in vaguer shades of grey. Because there was no one on the road at that moment, we stopped right in the middle of our lane, right in the middle of the highway, and snapped pictures. I snarl at tourists for doing stuff like that: there was no one to snarl at me.
|And, just for good measure, the view from the Panda Express parking lot in Kaneohe|
PCC DISCOUNT: Eric works in sales and marketing at the Polynesian Cultural Center. Every employee gets an employee discount benefit card. It allows you to offer your friends a reduced-price admission to PCC. Every week we get a text from someone who’s a friend, or a friend of a friend, or the cousin of a friend, who would like to visit PCC. We are happy to help use our card for our friends. We want everyone to LOVE PCC, and hope they’ll come back again and again and tell their friends and cousins to come back again and again. Today we got a text letting us know that my brother’s mission companion will be in town on Friday and is there any chance we could get 5 discount tickets for him? Of course! And please, have the time of your life!!
CHANGE: While we all hope Laie will never change, we simultaneously agitate for improvements—everyone has their own opinion on what needs to change, but more and better housing tops many lists. My Mom stood outside my childhood home this week, watching a crew “rip and tear and smash at it” (her words) to make room for NEW BYUH faculty housing—this time they’re putting a duplex where just one house used to be. Tears were streaming down her face. How do I know? A friend texted me while I was in the middle of my son’s birthday party. “This is [me]. They are tearing down your old house and I found [your Mom] in front, crying. I have given hugs and am staying with her, but you would be much better than me!” When I told her I couldn’t leave where I was, she texted me back: “OK, I will stay with her,” “They turned off the machines for the day and your Mom just headed home,” and “We love her!” Another old neighbor posted about it on facebook, creating a forum for some of our friends and family to mourn and remember with us.
NO WORRIES: I couldn’t come hug my Mom because I was in the middle of my 13-year old son’s birthday party. I was the lone adult, the cash machine, the food server and janitor. We were at the “Game Room” on BYUH campus now called The Hub. There wasn’t another soul there besides our party. We paid to play Super Smash Bros. for one hour. 3 hours later we went to settle our bill, to pay for the rest of our time, and they just said ‘Nah, it’s all good. You don’t owe anything.” We had had the place all to ourselves, had brought in our own food, not bought anything there. Other than the food I’d bought and brought, that birthday party cost us only $6. Only in Laie.
|Guess who's winning?|
|They posed this one.|
FAMILY is FOREVER: Friday night I walked over to take my turn caring for the triplets whose Mom died in childbirth. I talked with their Dad, who is pressing forward faithfully, surrounded by mementos of his wife for his own sake and for the sake of the babies and their 6-year-old brother. I chatted with my friend who is not in our ward, but who was there to take a turn, too—happy to give time and love to this family who are still struggling to survive now, 6 months after the birth and the death. I walked home after the babies had eaten, bathed and gone to sleep, charting my course by the light of the moon, aiming for the space between the two coconut trees, knowing to walk straight and duck under my neighbor’s clothesline as I crossed into my own yard. All of this a unique Laie experience I was so glad to be having.
LAIE SATURDAY: We woke up to a bright sunny Saturday morning, not knowing how we could do all the things that were scheduled for us. We went to a community clean-up project in front of PCC with our ward family. We would have slept in, but our kind neighbor was in charge of the project and we wanted to help and support him. We got dressed in work clothes, the boys, too, and went over to help. The PCC blue-shirt guys were there in a lift truck, cutting down HUGE ironwood branches, holding their chainsaws with one hand, and these 55+ year-old men didn’t let up for over two hours. BEAST! Ward members old and young raked and lifted and loaded the backs of trucks again and again. I chatted with my friend about how comfortable this winter had been and how we wished, though, that it could have been just a smidge sunnier. Then we laughed and laughed about how ridiculously ungrateful we had to be to stand there on the just-right 72 degree January day and complain about the weather.
MEANWHILE: at the very same time, across the street, on the main entrance to town, our good friend Uncle Buddy had inherited a wild pig from a friend. That pig had now been dead for a couple hours, and the huge animal was strung up by his hind legs from the ulu tree in Buddy’s front yard. Eric asked if our boys could come over and learn, and I excused them from the work project because of the opportunity at hand. They went across the street and Buddy let them skin the pig, hold its heart in their hands and feed the liver to the dogs. He told them which meat came from which part of the pig and showed them how to clean it and how to clean up. The boys, who told me they were NOT forever scarred, came back and finished up the service project alongside the missionaries, 4 of whom had just showed up to help, invigorating the whole effort. I drove by Buddy’s house later that day, rolled down the window of our car and hollered out, “Thanks, Uncle Buddy! My boys learned a lot!” Buddy didn’t say anything, just smiled big and gave me a very heartfelt double shaka as I drove away. Only in Laie.
MEANWHILE: Eric had to leave the work project to have the privilege of attending the annual PCC Hawaiian village devotional. Each village gets a chance, once a year, to host a devotional based on a theme of their choosing. The hymns and songs are often in the language of the village, and all the speakers are native Hawaiian students, or natives of the country represented by the village. There are also refreshments, of course, usually foods special to the host country. Eric loved talking with living treasures—kupuna Sunday Mariteragi, Ellen Gay Dela Rosa and Keith Awai, who are now retirees, but who blessed everyone in Laie and millions who have visited PCC by giving their lives and talents to preserve and portray native Hawaiian culture.
|The Hawaii Kupuna|
After the morning service project, Eric and the boys went to the next one, an Eagle Scout project to clean and fix up the Laie Point beach access path. And after that project they helped a neighbor haul off his old piano and take it to the dump. And after that they finally got to rest for a while. Eric and Lincoln ended the day fishing off the side of Laie Point as the sun went down off to the West. They had the beach entirely to themselves. They didn’t catch a thing, but it was still a good time. Only in Laie.
|the Eagle Scout Project|
|Moving the piano|
Sometimes I get frustrated by the price of food here, by how far away stores and doctors and recreational places are—and those are just the inconveniences. There are fundamental issues, too, like how far away my siblings, kids and grandkids are. There’s racial tension and educational underperformance and the inevitable, recurring tempests in a teapot that are just part of small-town life. I know all this. Those problems are not going away, but they don’t make even a momentary appearance in my thoughts on days like these, when I am filled to overflowing with the goodness that's everywhere, but only in Laie.