Life was different in the city than it was in Waipahu, but I learned things all along the way. Looking back, I don't know if I learned what I needed to, or what my family wanted me to know. I didn't learn to cook much at all until after I was married. Food was something that left unique memories for me, more than just tasty Lau Lau items to reminisce about.
My mom and dad were uniquely in love, but they did not get along. My memories of their relationship tend to be a source of PTSD. My father believed that men ruled the roost and did as they pleased. He seemed unhappy after he was discharged from the military. I think somehow, he lost a bit of his identity. He was in and out of our lives as he pleased, and seemed to lack direction. I was so much closer to my mom because of it. I remember the arguments. I remember the fights. I remember it happening over and over again. He would leave. He would come back. She would accept him repeatedly, even though he hurt her every time.
My father needed to feel in control. He chose to exercise his control over the girls; me and my mom. He thought that children should be seen and not heard. He made that very clear to me regularly. He never spanked me as a child, and neither did my mother. Irregardless, I feared it every time I heard that tone in his voice. His definitive, authoritative, voice; monotone and low. It scared me every time I heard that tone. A little girl running around the macadamia fields didn't know what to make of a tone like that. She was just scared.
Sadly, he did hit my mom. When they argued, it got out of hand many times. When I was a child, there was an old wives tale that putting a steak on a bruised eye would help the swelling go down and make it look less obvious and awful. My mom tried it every time they fought and she lost. It never worked. The evidence of his hostility still shone for days on her face, changing from dark purple to bluish grey to green and yellow. It made me so angry, but there was nothing that I knew I could do about it. It made me angry at him and angry at my mom and angry at myself. To this day, I don't like steak.
It's funny the way we react to our childhood and whatever trauma came along with it. I don't like steak. Of all the things that traumatized me about my childhood from being bullied, to being less important to my dad than my younger brothers, and more; my mom putting a steak on a shiner is the one that stands out the most. But, I married Jack, and he never makes me eat steak.
It's also odd what we remember with affection. I remember being extremely poor as a small child. My mother, when we lived in Waipahu, did the laundry by hand; and that's how I first learned to do it. We had a washboard in a galvanized bucket and we scrubbed our clothes on that washboard like there was no tomorrow. We had to wring out the clothes and hang them to dry. It wasn't until I was in Honolulu that I learned about washing machines. I remember the days that I spent with my elders doing laundry. I remember them as kind of family gatherings. Memories are strange. Steak is bad. Washboards are good. Such was my childhood.
The ironing I didn't like. The first time I remember paying attention to the ironing was watching my mom iron my dad's uniforms. She made them perfect and made him look good. It was much later when I learned how to iron clothes myself. It was a tedious affair for us. Once again, it was not the ironing that we are used to today. There was no steam setting, and no heat control. Our irons were manual. They were hot. They were heavy. We used a spray of water to produce the steam effect. We used banana leaves to help control the heat and manage the smoothness as we unwrinkled the fabric. We used lots of Niagara Spray Starch to make the wrinkles stay away.
Those were the days when all of my favorites on television were about white bread all American ideal families. On "Father Knows Best" and "Ozzie and Harriet" the housewives had a day for laundry. Looking back, I find that terribly unrealistic. They had machines and fancy irons and ironing boards. We had laundry day. We had washboards and hot irons. That took time. I think suburban TV housewives used laundry day as one more excuse not to get a job.
I was a tough munchkin. I was small, but I could take care of myself. I learned what I needed to know. I could do laundry, clean house, babysit my brothers; and by high school, I learned how to sew. Nowadays, kids don't learn such things. They buy it on Amazon. Back in those days, there were not the plethora of sizes and styles of clothing that we find online today. There was no online and no Walmart at all. Malls were still pipe dreams to developers. Life was different and options were few. I was tiny and a teenager. I didn't want to dress like a little kid, and I needed two of me to fill up ladies clothes.
By the time I was in high school, I ran out of options. I had to learn to make my own clothes to keep from feeling like an idiot and a freak in a sea of kids that I thought were judging me. I didn't want to wear the ridiculous clothes that parents put on their young daughters in the sixties. I had to look like the adult I thought I was. As with all teenage girls, I was actually quite far ahead of myself in the maturity department, but I wanted to look like a woman. I learned to sew in order to look like the other girls only "snack size."
It was hard when I was in school. I finally made a few friends, but friends can be extremely fickle at that age. My friends seemed to have the clothes that they wanted, and I had no idea how they got them. To this day, I don't know. I was too proud to ask, for fear of losing their respect. Instead, I made my clothes, and they didn't seem to know. Looking back, they may have known and just not said anything about it. I like to think that if they knew, they thought it was cool. I'm probably better off never knowing what they thought of my clothes. They were my friends, and for whatever reason, I needed them.
Food was that one thing that never seemed to be of interest to me. I lived in a tropical paradise. My mother made food sometimes and my papa made food a lot. Our community was simple. The food came from somewhere. Someone made it. I snacked in the fields where nuts grew a plenty, and when I went home in the evening, there was dinner.
Later on, I worked in a pineapple cannery. I didn't know how to bake a cake, but I knew what grade of pineapple went where. Light yellow color means the pineapple is ready. Medium yellow means it is ripe. Deep yellow is over ripe. That was the way Dole saw it. We packed the slices in the cans. If a slice broke, it became chunks or crushed. If it was too ripe, it became juice. It was a great system, obviously, because Dole is still producing today. We worked long days for $1.25 per hour. I learned quickly that working was hard, but I was tough enough to handle it.
Maybe I didn't learn to cook, because someone else in the family was assigned to do it. Maybe food wasn't that important to me, because my memories of food were of getting chased out of fields, working in a packing plant, and seeing my mom use food to try and heal wounds. For whatever reason, I learned more about cooking after I came to the mainland and married my Jack.
Life was simple when I was young. Otto Camp was a community where even the hardest chores remind me of happy times. Looking back, I had a severely dysfunctional family, but I didn't know what that was at the time. My mom loved my dad. She never loved another man. That was her way. I grew up believing that there was one man for one woman and that was the way it should be for life. Fortunately, when I was still a teenager, I met a man that would make that feasible.
There were a lot of things that I wanted to avoid in my own life. I didn't want to spend my life fighting with my man. I didn't want to cry myself to sleep, and wonder what I'd done. I didn't want to be lonely enough to put up with a man who didn't respect me. My mother is a wonderful person. She did the best she could. But, both she and I wanted me to do better. She never outwardly went against my dad, but she wanted me to make better choices.
My mom struggled for everything she ever got in life. I have too. However, we did it differently. I wish my mom could have found a man like Jack. I wish that she could have known the happiness that I have known over my lifetime. Until recently, with his declining health and memory problems, my Jack was a happy go lucky man. He always smiled and seemed to be happy that his life was as it is. It's hard to see him slipping into dementia and getting angry that he can't remember things. It's hard to see him with COPD and having trouble doing things.
Life has been good to me. I hate to see Jack going through what life has dealt him in old age. But, would I change any of the 48 years that came before? No. My Jack is a wonderful man. He was the man that made me believe men could be good. I grew up watching my father do my mother wrong in many ways. I had trust issues with men in a lot of ways. My Jack cured them all. I realized that there were good men out there. To this day, I believe I got the best one.
When I left my home to be Jack's wife, I didn't want to be like my mother. I didn't want my upcoming marriage to be like my parents'. I wasn't even sure what I wanted to be. I was fairly certain of what I didn't want to be. If anyone ever wondered why I love Jack so much, I can assure you that there are a hundred reasons. I will discuss each one in this story, so that everyone knows every single positive attribute that my wonderful Jack has.
Reason number one why I love my Jack so very much is simple. He let me become the person I wanted to be.