Yes, I’m writing this on a Hawaiian beach at sunset, toes in the sand, palm trees tossing their shaggy heads in the mild evening breeze. Yeah, I know. I want to kill me, too. Have I told you most of my childhood summers were spent here with my aunts and cousins? So, I’ve never been a tourist on these islands which makes me sad only because I’ve always wanted to stroll the colonial lawns and gardens of the Royal Hawaiian on Waikiki Beach wearing a showy sundress decorated with huge, unreal tropical flowers…except I’ve never actually BEEN to Waikiki. Even here, we are country folk.
I’m staying with my parents in a remote part of Oahu on the Northeastern shore where my Tia Cora has owned a weekend beach house for as long as I can remember. And like all beach houses everywhere, it is a tidy scrabble of mismatched furniture, overly bright pieces of cheap art, a good deal of Tupperware, and squares of carpet remnants. We Love It.
Perhaps, it’s the impending nuptials of her granddaughter or the fact that she’s just handed me the photos she shot at my wedding (“I just need one for old times sake since it doesn’t matter anymore”), but before she turns over the key to Paradise, she says, “Never get married again, my dear. It will ruin your life, leave you trapped AND your grandmother would be greatly disappointed, God Rest Her Soul. I sincerely hope you’re past all that.” This from a woman who’s been married to her Great Love for nearly 50 years, a man she wakes up to and adores every day, a handsome devil that inspired me and many of my other girl cousins, when we were young, to fantasize about hooking up with football coaches, Asian men, and Mormons. All at the same time. Such a delicious idea if any one of them even remotely resembled the quietly regal Uncle Calvin. Someday, I’ll have to pin down my tia on this seeming contradiction. But for right now I let her have her soapbox. Because a 100-pound Mexican in a muumuu wagging a bent finger is rather intimidating.
Today, we spent much of the afternoon making bouquets for the wedding party, garlands for the archway, and ivy streamers for the staircase. Let me just say that asking Second Edition to work a flower arrangement is not unlike asking Angelina Jolie to whip up a batch of cookies. Not really the best use of my talents, but hey, I said I’d help and here I am. Shaving the thorns off roses. A metaphor worth pursuing if I wasn’t so jet-lagged.
Auntie Lin making bouquets for the bridesmaids while Second Edition supervises, gimlet in hand. "Not so crazy about the mums, Auntie, but carry on."
Between the guacamole and the ahi poke, the laulau (wrapped in banana leaves) and the tamales (wrapped in corn husks), I survey the women gathered round, the aunts, the cousins, the daughters…and I realize, This Is World Peace, right here. Hispanics, Japanese, Chinese, Hawaiians, Random White Folk of Tenuous European Heritage. All possible because despite any agonizing on the part of Cher, Halfbreed ain’t such a dirty word.
Which reminds me of the moment, nearly two years ago now, when the Ranger called Mama Ranger in the western-hill-country-of-Pennsylvania and declared he was in love with a Mexican, “‘cept she’s really white with blue eyes and freckles. Ain’t seen anything like it.”
And that right there is when the Croatians and the Poles started pouring salsa on their bangers.