Saturday, June 21, 2014

Fosi and Delia: "Will You Be My Girlfriend?"

In honor of our 22nd wedding anniversary, a short story from the page of our relationship book. Based on true events, but subject to slightly romanticized hindsight.

“Delia, will you be my girlfriend?”.

There it was. The question that I knew had been forthcoming for some time now. I anticipated it for weeks now with both excitement and trepidation.  I mean, what did I expect? We’d been hanging out together almost daily since he returned from his California mission in March. And here it was, already May, and we were practically dating without it being official.

Not that I didn’t want it to happen.  I mean, it was Fosi. The boy I’d had a crush on between the ages of 13-16.  I’d written secret letters to him as a wide-eyed schoolgirl and dedicated songs to him on Krater 96 during the love song hour anonymously. I cried when he went out with the first girl (ok so I helped set them up when she professed her feelings for him to me, of all people), filled in at the last minute as his Junior prom date because she cancelled at the last minute. I negotiated his Senior Prom date with the haole girl in the ward that he fancied.  To add insult to injury, I agreed to attend his Senior prom as his friend’s date, the short Korean guy who owned a really nice car and who Fosi promised to find a date for so they could go to the prom in his car. When Fosi started dating the haole girl’s best friend, I figured it was time to start daydreaming about someone more attainable, and considerably more available.

But we continued to be friends, attending church activities, walking home together from the chapel, chilling with our ward crew and hanging out at my house because he happened to be my brother’s friend, too.  Sure we flirted with each other and there were a few times where we got a little too close for friendship but nothing ever happened.  The years went by and I saw him off at the airport when he left for his mission, wrote him some letters and moved on to give my heart to someone else. 

The day he flew home, we all went to meet him at the airport, only to find out that we had missed him. A short time later, we filed into his KPT apartment where his family was holding a welcome home dinner. There he was, still tall, dark and handsome. He was dressed in his church clothes and wearing his name tag which bore the name of “Elder Ulima”.  When he turned to look at me, our eyes met and I remember catching my breath as a big smile came across his face and he walked over to greet me. “You’ve grown up, Delia”, he said. “My, my, my, Elder, so have you”, I thought to myself. 

The two years he was absent from my life had been extremely kind to him. He had filled out nicely and spoke differently. He said things like “ma’am” and “pardon me” now and he talked about his mission and the people he had met and the things he had learned.  The boy who I had fallen for, the one who wore jams and muscle t-shirts and liked popping and playing basketball was replaced by a young man who was starting college soon and spoke of future plans. Needless to say, I found all of this incredibly attractive.

And here we were, two months later, sitting on the wall at Ala Moana Beach Park. The single adults from our ward were holding a moonlight picnic and as they laughed and ate on the beach, Fosi had asked if he could speak to me alone.  We walked off a little way and found a quiet spot on the wall under the dim light of the street lamp. When he grabbed my hands and held them in his, I knew what was about to happen. He proceeded to tell me how he felt about me and how he wanted to be with me. And then he asked me the question that I had longed to hear, dreamt about hearing, for. . .years. 

“Delia, will you be my girlfriend?”

He said it softly, holding my hands and my gaze firmly in his. I felt myself begin to shake, the kind that comes on when you’re really nervous, really excited or really scared.  I felt my eyes begin to sting and my nose tingle and I knew that I was about to start crying. I couldn’t lose it, not here, not now. But I had to tell him, he deserved an honest answer.

“Fosi, I can’t be your girlfriend. Not yet. I’m still in love with someone else.”

And that’s when the water works began. I had previously told Fosi about the other guy, the one who broke my heart and who I hadn’t been able to get over yet. In that moment, I cursed that person for entirely different reasons now-for having to hurt someone I loved, for not being ready to move on.

Fosi listened quietly, never loosening his grip on my hands. He reached up to wipe away the tears streaming down my face with one hand, took a breath and proceeded to speak.

“Delia, I will wait for you. But, I won’t wait forever. You let me know when you’re ready to be my girlfriend.” And with that, he kissed me on the forehead, stood up, helped me to my feet and led me back to our friends on the beach.


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Going Home Again

Lately I've been listening to a song entitled, "The House That Built Me, " sung by country artist, Miranda Lambert. The lyrics speak of a woman who has a yearning to return once more to the home of her childhood and it starts out with her on the front steps asking the (now) owner of the home if she can go in and walk around.  She hopes that by touching and feeling the place, "this emptiness inside me might start healing" and continues to recall memories of her bedroom, her daddy building it by hand and a favorite dog buried under the oak tree out front.  As is my sappy practice, when I find a song I love, I play it two hundred times, sing along, shed tears and get all introspective. This time was no different.

I was raised in Kalihi at 1412 Kamehameha IV Road, in (what I believed then to be) a large, two-story home that was full of great places to hide, lots of neat stuff and a yard that wrapped around it on three sides.  Two large glass plane windows upstairs looked out on the small street and provided an ideal place to display a Christmas tree or watch the lights of neighboring KPT turn on every evening.  It is the only home I lived in as a child and one that lingers in my memories and heart until today.  In fact, it is the only house that I ever dream of, even as a grown woman.  None of the dwellings, including the home I own today, have made it's way into my dreams, go figure? Ironically, the home that my husband and I purchased 10 years ago is only one street over from the famous Parker house. And yet, I rarely drive or walk past it, perhaps deliberately.

So today, as I decided to take an early morning walk around the neighborhood, I found myself drawn to 1412.  I stood gazing at it across the street, at first, and after a moment's hesitation, walked over to stand in it's driveway.  An older Filipino man was in the garage cleaning out his car and he didn't notice me at first.  I took in as much as my eyes could behold-so many changes-the color of the house, new fencing, another set of stairs, a cement driveway, dogs in the yard (something grandma would never allow, though we tried to sneak animals in once or twice). And everything looked so much. . .smaller.

"Can I help you?", the man asked.

"I just wanted to take a look at the house, I grew up here", was my reply.

"Yeah, ok", and he returned to his task.

Hmmm, maybe he didn't hear me. "I was raised here, lived here for over 20 years and I just wanted to see the place."

"Yes, well good morning to you, then", he replied with an irritated tone.

Hmmm, this wasn't quite working out the way I'd hoped. What did I expect? An invitation to come in and walk around, shoot the breeze about the family that lived here two decades ago?

"How long have you lived here?", I tried again. 

At this point, he gave up trying to clean his car, figuring I wasn't going to leave him alone until he engaged in conversation with me. "Four years," he finally said.

A young boy peeked down at us from the big window upstairs, just like I used to when someone came to visit.  We talked for a couple minutes and he asked where my family was and I said that my parents and grandparents had passed and he told me, "rich or poor, everyone dies one day, yeah?".  I nodded and told him there were so many changes and asked if I could touch the garage wall. He obliged and I reached my fingers out, expecting to feel the familiar rough texture of the cement blocks that I'd leaned against a thousand times and found it had been replaced by a hollow wall.

I looked at the unkempt yard, once the pride and joy of my grandmother, a woman who arose at the crack of dawn and returned at dusk to water and tend to her beloved plants. I could picture the bird of paradise and torch ginger, the array of plumeria trees bearing pink, white and yellow flowers. I recalled the banana and papaya trees, the bushes and shrubs and the magnificent mango tree in the back which was aptly named "King". King was a haven for birds, the bearer of hundreds of juicy mangoes every season, the temptation of every housing kid who tried to steal his succulent fruit, the provider of numerous climbing adventures and a shelter for the many children who played in it's shade, year in and year out.

The memories fluttered around me and I spoke to the worn, old structure in my mind.

"It's me", I whispered, "I've come back to visit you, I never forgot you. I dream about you all the time.  Do you remember how my brothers and sisters and I used to make a racket running up and down the stairs? How clean mom kept you? How wonderful it smelled when she baked biscuits from scratch and cakes for our birthdays and turkeys at Thanksgiving?"

"Do you remember the hand-made coconut goblets that lined the dining room walls that my grandpa made? And the huge dinner table that I'd hide under when I was scared or the giant bed in grandpa's room that he built, too?  Can you recall all the many, many people who walked up the front stairs to visit, celebrate, talk story and seek shelter over the years? Do you remember how loud grandma cried when she found out my dad died? And how many books he had in his bedroom? And how we all slept together in one room for the longest time? And how we played war games at night in the yard and climbed over the fence to play with the neighbors and jumped off the back wall? Can you still hear the music we played and the songs we sang, the late night talks and bursts of laughter ringing through the house? Do you know that you were a refuge, a hang out for our friends and a 'second home' to so many others? Do you remember the rites of passage-the first kisses and newlyweds who needed a place to start out and the newborns that grew and crawled down these halls? Do you remember?".

I've always believed that houses have a spirit and hold the memories and energy of it's family and I wondered about the new inhabitants. Did they ever hear the echoes of the family who made this house a home? Did this big old house keep their secrets, as well? Could it possibly love them as it did us?

As I caressed the hollow garage wall, I found myself feeling that very thing. . .empty. It was as if this new wall and that new fence and those new plants in the yard had no concept of all that took place before and it felt like the spirit that used to live here had. . .gone, just as we had.  Now I know that sounds crazy and perhaps I am.  Maybe I expected too much, maybe I hoped too much, or maybe I just. . .moved on.

I thanked the old man and headed back home. . .home to a single-story house with a big glass window where my dog appears, barking madly whenever I return.  Home to my son in the front driveway riding his bike, to my husband in the office and my in-laws watching television, to my Filipino neighbors who greet me cheerfully.  And I know that the four walls and roof that houses my family, wherever that may be through the years, is the place that I will consider home and it will hold new memories. . .but the house, and the family, and the neighborhood, and the friends, and the childhood that built me will always, always live in my heart. . .and most likely, in my dreams. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Red Shoes and the Barefoot Divas

A couple of weeks ago, I headed out with my girlfriends to enjoy the vocal and poetic stylings of the Barefoot Divas at Leeward Community College.  This fabulously talented group of ladies hail from New Zealand, Australia and Papua New Guinea and represent a collaboration of well known Native artists.  The effect was stunning. The vocals, the costumes, the music, the spoken word, the musicians, the atmosphere was truly spectacular and I basked in the womanly ambiance of it all with my own group of sistahs by my side.

These lovely ladies, as they are so aptly named, perform barefoot. . .well, with the exception of one spicy Maori/Welsh/Gypsy songstress, in her red heels.  As she sang and danced on stage, my friend leaned over and whispered to me, "there's just something about red heels that are SO sexy!".  Amen and amen, sister.  I sat there mulling over this statement and thought to myself, "Delia, when was the last time you owned a pair of sexy red heels?". Ah, never. Next question, "Delia, when was the last time you owned a pair of heels?". Hmm, too long for me to remember.

Of course that internal dialogue led me to contemplate as to why I don't wear heels and why I've never owned a pair of red shoes, period.  First and foremost, I'm just not a 'shoe' person. My mantra is: comfort and economy over style.  I've never enjoyed shoe shopping, never drooled over a pair of open-toed Manolos like Carrie Bradshaw or envisioned myself out on the town in Jimmy Choo strappy sandals. I'd honestly prefer to go around in a pair of Scotts slippers or barefoot, like my indigenous sisters on stage-at home, work and yes, even when I'm performing on stage. (Honestly, I think Lina and I take off our shoes on stage a lot, lol).  Second, I've owned heels in the past but as I get older and more abundant in figure, it's just not comfortable, doesn't look too good and is downright dangerous sometimes! Picture me falling down a flight of stairs, tiny heels snapping like twigs-well at least that's the image that comes to my mind.

So as I reflected on all of those things while sitting in a darkened theater enjoying the display of diverse beauty celebrated before me, I made myself a little promise.  I am going to own a pair of red heels before the year is out. Let me declare again, to the universe and all interested (and disinterested) parties: I, Delia Leiala Parker Ulima, will purchase and wear a pair of hot, sexy, taller than 1/2 inch pair of heels by December 31, 2014 (picture proof forthcoming). There, I've said it and in doing so, have put the wheels of intention in motion. May the 'barriers' be removed to meet my goal-those barriers being, in no particular order: finding shoes in my size, finding shoes I like and that complement my Hawaiian footsies, and most importantly, getting to a point in my mind and body where I feel GOOD wearing them and flaunting them, and the legs attached to the feet they're on.

My path to becoming a red heel wearing goddess starts here, folks. By all means, you're welcome to join me on this quest. The Red-Heeled Divas Club has been founded, any takers?

But don't worry, I'll always be a barefoot diva at heart. . .