Related collections and offers
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The people are like waves of sea
and I am drifting between them wherever they are blown.
The TaoTeChing [circa 500 BCE]
The day before I had the vision drawn from a 1940s B-movie, it had seemed like life was finally moving away from deadly matters. While my family has had a higher-than-average number of death related events, my twin Nathan and I had experienced more than our usual quota in the last year. Losing both Nathan’s beloved granddaughter Ariel and our Auntie Carrie had taken a high toll on each of us. I had recently retired from a career in travel and leisure journalism and had hoped to catch up with my family after so many years of being on the road. But that was not to be.
Shifting from visioning to light sleep, I heard heavy rain hitting thelānaidoors and louvered windows of myWaikīkīcondo. I was grateful that for more than a week I had been able to rise each morning without an acute jolt of loss. But in that state between sleeping and waking, I felt disoriented and continued to feel the wooing of ocean currents from my vision.
I consider my experience avisionbecause the scenes had appeared in faded sepia, rather than the hues of reality I enjoy in a normal dream. And when I view scenes in the tones of an old tintype photo, they inevitably prove to be snapshots of significant events. Usually the images come to me concurrently or before an event. At the moment, I could not see where scenes lifted from World War II would prove relevant to my life in the twenty-first century, but stranger things have happened in my fifty-plus years.
The rain continued its assault as I awakened fully. I was alone since my boyfriend Keoni had spent the night in hisMānoabungalow, after the semi-annual gathering of his closest buddies from his years in theCriminal InvestigationDivision of the Honolulu Police Department. With only one more day in my condo, I knew I needed to get started on a final to-do list, if we were to be ready to clear out the next day. But despite the need to up my momentum, I lolled in bed a bit longer.
In some respects, Keoni’s maintaining his own place reminded me of the handful of years I had been married to BillSeachrist. As a young naval officer, Bill had had twenty-four hour duty fairly frequently when he was assigned to a ship. While some wives complained, I used the time to get together with single girlfriends, wax floors, or luxuriate in a tubful of hot water…with a clay mask on my face, oil in my hair and a champagne glass on the floor beside me.
I tried to shake off images of boats of any kind since the sight of them usually makes me queasy. Instead I thought about what I had seen in the stone church and the little girl who was bundled in a warm jacket for a journey at sea. Experience has taught me that I will learn the importance of these vignettes eventually. In the meantime, I should hit the shower and launch the final day of preparation for my move to Auntie Carrie’s cottage inLanikai.
As I sat up and swung my feet to the floor, my valiant feline companion Miss Una arrived to announce her desire for breakfast.
“Yes, you’ve been a very good girl, this morning. You actually let me sleep in until seven-thirty. Did you eat all of your dry food? Whatever would you do if you had to face an empty bowl for more than a couple of hours?”
Staring at me with suspicion, Miss Una turned to lead the way into the kitchen. After meeting her loud demand for immediate satisfaction, I started a pot of Kona coffee for myself. Moving into my normal routine, I looked at the kitchen phone to see if the light was blinking to announce I had voicemail. As I expected, I found a message that had been left after I had switched off the ringer of my bedside phone to ensure a good night’s sleep.
“Hi Natalie,” said my twin Nathan. “I’ll bet you’re getting one last peaceful night of rest before the big move. I was just wondering if you and Keoni would like me to bring over some chop-salad and a pizza from Zia’s Caffe tomorrow night? And maybe some crispy calamari? You know how to find me if you like the idea. Also, have Keoni call me if there are any tools or supplies you need. I can always run down to your condo, if you want something before getting to the cottage.”
Great. That was one less item to think about. Keoni has a good appetite. After moving my entire household and some of his belongings, I wanted to be able to offer him a decent mealwithout our having to clean up the kitchen, or drive over to Kailua. Not that I did not appreciate the windward town’s great restaurants. Their abundance had helped tip the scale in my decision to move into the oldLanikaicottage which is just southwest of Kailua.
For the last two weeks I had been using up as much of my fresh food and refrigerated staples as possible. So, my morning coffee was lightened with ice cream and my breakfast consisted of the carton of Tillamook yogurt a friend had brought from the mainland,plus the last apple banana from Nathan’s yard. Until I wrote an article on agricultural specialties of Hawaìi, I had no idea there were several varieties of apple bananas. I think Nathan’s are sweet dwarf Brazilians.
After the impact of my vision, I allowed myself a leisurely second cup of coffee spiced with a dash of organic cinnamon that my grandniece Brianna had brought over from Portland, Oregon, during the holidays. After the death of her twin Ariel the previous summer, we were glad to be reunited as a family, if only for a short while. This had proven especially significant since Auntie Carrie had died beforeBri’sreturn to college.
Finally, I reached for my list of things that had to be done before tomorrow morning. Unlike my last move, this one was not temporary. As Wayne Dyer often said, it wasThe Big Enchilada. All of my belongings were being moved out. Once the condo was empty, I had to have the unit cleaned and painted before converting it into a rental property.
Fortunately, I would not be playing landlord. I had decided to have Anna Wilcox (my friend and the manager of the building) handle every aspect of the rental. My decision to give up control of this area of my life was made while substituting for one of Anna’s colleagues at the weekly mahjong game held by severalWaikīkīproperty managers.
With four tables running, I am often invited to join in the fun. Each hostess provides the entrée and drinks, while guests bring side dishes and desserts. I am a happy girl anytime I can enjoy a good meal with minimal effort, and this was one activity that I would try to maintain after the move to the Windward District ofÒahu.
Listening to the conversations of those powerhouses of all things condominium, I had realized I did not want to undertake responsibility for keeping a tenant happy. Since I was not relying on the rental income to sustain myself, I decided to let Anna make a couple of dollars and save myself the agony. The condo’s appliances were almost new and I would be leaving the unit in good condition, so hopefully there would not be much drama on the landlord front for a while. When one emerged, I would follow Anna’s advice and simply write a check for what needed to be done.
After a bit more packing, I planned to catch a ride with Keoni to pick up my parents’ old Chevy Malibu from Nathan, as temporary transportation until my new hybrid Kia Optima arrived from the mainland. Once I had left college, I relied on my husband Bill’s MG. If he was on shore duty, I simply dropped him at the office. When he was on deployment, I had the use of his car whenever I wanted. After Bill died, my fledgling career as a journalist had moved into high gear and I spent most of my life travelling. With the MG remaining parked for extended periods, it had only eighty thousand miles on the odometer when I finally sold it.
Since I had never bought a new car before, the adventure of selecting features for the Optima seemed as daunting as it was exciting. The easiest decisions were the Snow White Pearl finish for the exterior and gray leather for the interior. I could not believe how many trim options I could select from. Loving classical music, as well as Hawaiian slack key guitar, I was delighted that SiriusXM Satellite Radio was available in Hawaìi. With an upgraded sound system, I would be getting the best of all things audio.
Beyond those choices, I let Keoni talk me into several features for safety as well as comfort, including auto-leveling headlights and folding outside mirrors. With the hybrid’s fabulous mileage, onboard navigation and communication systems, he said he would not have to worry about my being stranded some night when he was not with me. And given our climate, I was thrilled at the thought of air cooled seats!
It seemed appropriate that I would have a new car to go with my newat least to mehome. When our Auntie Carrie passed, Nathan and I decided he would continue to live in the waterside Kānèohe home built by our parents in their retirement and I would move into Auntie’s White Sands Cottage. Admittedly there’s quite a disparity between the value of the large up-to-date home in Kānèohe and the modest old bungalow in Lanikai, but surprisingly, the difference in valuation is not based on size or amenities. That is because the land near the rocky, unwelcoming Kānèohe Bay does not have the value of the cottage that lies near one of the most glorious beaches in Hawaìi. The address itself puts the Lanikai cottage in one of the most affluent real estate markets in the world.
While the cottage is not large in terms of square feet, it seems like a palace after all my years in apartments, condos, and hotel rooms. Counting the small attic, there were three levels to the house and many old fashioned built-ins plus odd little nooks and crannies. These features would certainly provide Miss Una with a very active life. And, of course, there was the great out-of-doors to which she was about to be introduced.
The lot was over a quarter of an acre, which is fairly large for Hawaìi. Most of the streets are narrow in Lanikai and the house is set near the front of the property to maximize enjoyment of the backyard and ocean view. The house, or cottage as we always call it, is akama’aina, an Island interpretation of the classic bungalow. The balance of traditional Arts and Crafts design with a touch of Asian and Hawaiian styling shows in the foundation, chimney and porch columns of lava rock, upturned eaves, and use of local woods likekoaand'ōhìa.
Eventually both properties will pass to Brianna, Nathan’s sole remaining granddaughter. At the moment, she is not interested in real estate, no matter where it is located. She has slowed the pace of her studies since her twin’s death, but is still on track to complete her Bachelor’s degree in psychology and then enter a Master’s program in social work.
While Nathan and I try to focus on the present, it is difficult for us to control our emotions about her twin’s murder. We had envisioned the girls marrying and having families that would surround us as we aged. Unfortunately, half of that dream will never materialize, because the machinations of a crazed drug user caused Ariel to fall to her untimely death.
After I had returned to my condo from a short period of sleuthing at the apartment complex where the girl had died, I had turned to putting my own affairs in order. When Ariel’s murder was followed by Auntie Carrie’s quiet passing on the second of January, I forced myself to begin sorting the clothing, personal effects, and household goods of both my beloved grandniece and aunt.
Although Brianna had returned to the Islands for spring break, she was still too distraught to sort her twin’s belongings. Selecting a few items for herself, Brianna had asked Nathan and me to disperse her twin’s favorite pieces of jewelry and clothing among her friends and then to donate the furniture and remaining accessories for the benefit of families of women and children who had suffered or died from violence.
Nathan, a semi-retired psychologist, had just been elected to the board of Hale Malolo, a women’s shelter at the time of Ariel’s death. Since they were always in need of a variety of things for their clients, there was no debate on how to utilize Ariel’s and Carrie’s earthly possessions. Although I have never had a vision of Ariel since her passing, I had a dream about her as a young girl the night after we delivered the last of her belongings to the shelter.
* * * * *
In my dream, I stand at the side of the garden in our parents’ former home on an early Sunday morning. The sun shines vibrantly on the leaves of hibiscus bushes that are still wet with morning dew. I look toward the back of the property, where palm trees sway in a gentle breeze. Around the house and along the sides of the garden, plantings of Song of India and monstera provide a backdrop for pops of yellow from ginger and rattlesnake plants. At the base of the flower bed, lower-growing orange and white lantana ground cover creep onto the edge of the lawn. The garden is especially lovely because of the blooming annual flowers Nathan has planted recently along the lava stone path leading from thelānai down to the rockyedge of the bay.
The previous night, Ariel and Brianna invited a couple of their closest friends for a slumber party. Always early and on target, Auntie Carrie arrives to add a few of her special touches to the girls’ brunch that morning. She always loved any excuse to turn a simple supper into apā'inaor a casual Sunday breakfast into a festive Island-style brunch. Although a beachside gahering of young girls does not require it, Auntie Carrie wants to make the day a memorable one for both the hostesses, as well as their guests.
Her menu includes shrimp quiche, ambrosia salad with fresh pineapple and tiny sandwiches with crusts trimmed as the old gracious Waikīkī hotels do for their famous high teas. The beveragedu jouris cinnamon tea that has steeped for hours in a glass jar set out in the yard. For dessert, there is a festive coconut cake withhaupiafilling. On top of the cake are two hula girls painted to look like Ariel and Brianna.
What is truly amazing is that Auntie Carrie has devised a small mechanism for making the cake toppers perform the hula at the press of a button. Well, I should be honest and say that the dolls are not performing thehula. The shimmy they perform has been known to evoke ribald jokes at adult gatherings.
The ambience is also per Auntie Carrie’s recipe. Nathan has been instructed to set up the patio with a large buffet for the varied food selections and a large round dining table set with straw mats and yellow linen napkins. Even beneath the extended roof, there are bright splashes of color, with hanging baskets of bromeliads and large red ceramic pots with red ginger and pineapple plants.
With the stage set, I watch as the girls rush out the back door to “ooh” and “ah” over everything set before them. After Nathan pulls out a chair for each girl to be seated, Auntie Carrie pours sun tea into tall glasses and inserts stalks of pineapple core as stir sticks. Gesturing to the elegantly printed menus in front of them, she then describes highlights of the meal they are about to eat. Nathan begins the event by passing a tray of miniature bagels, fresh whipped honey butter and guava jelly. He then announces that the girls may help themselves to the buffet any time they wish.
To ensure the longevity of joyful memories, Nathan had taken many photos and even created a photo album for me since I was gone on assignment overseas. I remember laughing the first time I saw a picture of the foursome of teens toasting each other, as well as the providers of this rare treat. I think my favorite shots are of the girls pulling on rubber slippers and dashing out to the water for a casual game of water polo in the late morning surf.
* * * * *
My reminiscing ended with the chirping of my cell phone. I saw that the caller was Keoni.
“You’re up earlier than I would have expected,” I observed.
“What are you saying? I keep to my usual schedule, even when the guys and I have been out. I was up promptly at six-thirty and had my morning constitutional walk, as your Auntie Carrie would have said. According to my pedometer, I put in four miles today in spite of my bum ankle.”
“I’m proud of you. The only things I’ve exercised this morning are my fingersentering a couple of items in my to-do lists while consuming two cups of coffee.”
Keoni groaned, guessing correctly that I had increased the number of issues for him to address during the move.
“Don’t worry. All I need from you is an ‘Okay’ for Nathan to bring us a catered supper tomorrow. By the way, he said for you to call him if you need to use of his tools or other supplies.”
“Well that’s easy. Yes and yes. I’ll give him a call with ayesto the offer of dinner at the same time I plead for the use of his hand truck. I know you’ve got access to furniture moving equipment at the condo. We’re going to need more than the low dolly I use for maintaining the truck once we get to the cottage. And I think he’s got an electric drill that’s newer than mine.”
We hung up after I made a few suggestions for his last-minute supply shopping. I then returned to surveying the mess that greeted my eyes as I moved from room to room. I was glad that I would be able to leave Miss Una at play with her mother Mitzy at Anna’s condo while Keoni andhis neighborBenFaktorrwere loading the moving truck. Fortunately, Waikīkī is not thronged with traffic very early on Sunday mornings. But by the time we were heading across the Kòolau Mountains on the Pali Highway, there would be crowds of tourists as well as locals coming into the resort area for Sunday brunches and other forms of R and R.
After tossing in a few last items, I began closing and taping every box I could. Hoping to ensure easy access and prioritization at the other end, I quickly labeled each before I could forget what they contained. Having been on the road for much of my life, the extent of my normal packing routine had consisted of simply ensuring I had enough underwear, cosmetic and first-aid supplies, as well as batteries for assorted electronic gadgets.
Most of my overseas assignments had been as a travel writer, and my schedule sometimes changed without notice and I had to traipse from one dream vacation locale to another without a break.Once in a whileI ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time; instead of reporting on ways to spend one’s leisure time and discretionary funds, I had had to pinch-hit for broadcasters unable to cover an unforeseen event.
Now that I am semi-retired I usually work as a free-lancer. This allows me to select the subjects I explore personally and control my work schedule. Sometimes I am contracted to write about a specific topic. Occasionally, I perform research for anindividual or organizationas I did last year when Keoni asked me to research his family home in Kaimukī.
Although it had brought us to our current romantic relationship, the launch of that assignment had coincided with Ariel’s death. Looking back, I do not know how I would have made it through the experience of looking into Ariel’s murder without Keoni’s guidance and active support.
We now spend nearly every night and most of our days together, despite having kept our separate residences. With Keoni’s bungalow in Mānoa and my condo in Waikīkī, it has been relatively easy to merge our schedules. Now that we will be living together in Lanikai, it may take a bit more planning for some of our activities. However, since I will be just a half-hour drive from downtown, it will still be easy for me to get to the research resources I need periodically.
Generally, I am ecstatic about this move. But through my years of ownership of the condo, I have become very close to Anna. Through her, I have made friends with other property specialists in the area. Thankfully, my spiffy new car will allow me to drop into town for an occasional mahjong gathering, but it will not be as easy to enjoy a spur-of-the-moment shopping spree, or a glass of wine at the end of a day. If only our cats were kids; Anna and I could schedule regular play dates!