Person: Mr. H, Retired
I never quite figured out what Mr. H does with his time while I’m at work. Each morning, as I’m rushing down the stairs with my purse, school bag, mug of iced coffee, peanut butter toast and half a banana gripped between my teeth like a dog’s bone, I spy Mr. H on his morning walk as I get to the front gate of the yard. He is dressed in gray sweats from head to toe, wearing a gray beanie, and an off-white towel around his neck as if he’d gone running up the Philadelphia museum stairs a la Rocky Balboa. He strolls pass and waves a hand of acknowledgement as I drag the steel gate across the driveway to one side.
It’s not cold. We live in Hawaii. Although the central Oahu town of our residence is situated at a higher elevation than the rest of the island, it really doesn’t warrant wearing sweats when it’s 70 degrees in the a.m. He’s a nice gentlemen of about 75 years of age. Underneath the beanie is a mop of white hair, trimmed neatly around the ears and the nape of his neck. His skin is a leathery tan, evidence of his fishing days. He stroll is more like a gait around the block in dated Reebok shoes, white with red stripes. He seems to be whistling to himself, smiling. The length of his sweatpants fall just above his ankles. Its shortened length reveals off-white socks.
Place: The Neighborhood
The neighborhood is an eclectic collection of families and noise. It is an older neighborhood with many of the families retired with adult children who have moved away. When grand children do visit, no one really plays outside anymore, except for the children of newer families who don’t really own the homes, but rent instead from the retirees who have left. Mr and Mrs. L live in the white house with red window trim, an American flag, jutting out at an angle from the porch. They are of Portuguese decent. Mr. Lopez can barely walk and struggles to the mailbox to fetch their mail around noon. Next door to them, live Mrs. K, whose daughter’s husband divorced her with two children. The children are Japanese and African-American. Her son owns two, large dalmatians, but I think they’re more spotted pitbulls than pure dalmatian. I never saw his sister, Malia, since we were little. Mrs. K, their grandmother, dry wipes the walls of her house weekly. The next house is rented by a single mom, who works as a dental hygienist. Her father recently left for Georgia and she has a teenage son, a middle school girl, a 10 year old boy and a toddler named Heaven. The next house down the street belongs to a very patriotic family. They erected a pole in the front yard where they fly the American flag. The father deploys to Afghanistan, and mom raises the four daughters. They like living in Hawaii because it helps the girls grow up with their Polynesian heritage, as their mother is Tongan and father is from Maryland. Across from them, live the Riveras, aluminum cans in buckets and broken cars in the driveway, chickens are scattered around the yard. Recently, the Humane Society visited and took some of those chickens away.
Thing: The Yard
A gathering place of sorts in this neighborhood is an open field in front of a particular neighbor’s yard. It was never gated and corners the inner row of houses where the streets intersect within the neighborhood. It is tucked away from the main road, and holds a yellow fire hydrant atop a slight hill with a cement bench encircling it half way like a horse shoe.
The yard seems so vast the smaller you are as a child. The fire hydrant is flaking yellow paint, and serves as a right of passage for every youngster who desires to fly. The child climbs to the very top of the hydrant and jumps up and away landing on the soft grass. The horse shoe bench separates the yard from the street, so the grass catches the fall. Bonus points if you could jump at a distance up, flying up and tumble as you landed.
Flying into the blue sky and falling into the grass was euphoric. It didn’t matter when your mom got mad because you got tangled in grass stickers on your clothing and in your hair.
Each generation has a different use for the yard, but my best memory was from an old tenant, long gone, who yelled at us to “Get out! Dis not your yard!” he said. (You need to say it with a local Hawaiian pidgin accent, it’ll crack you up).