Saturday, May 30, 2020

Our New Son

I spent the first week or so trying to unpack, organize and acclimate our family to our new surroundings. Soon it would be school time and our five year old would be attending kindergarten. Elbert inquired about the schooling, found a local one and enrolled her. Our daughter would be all set when the school doors opened in a few weeks.

Elbert drove our car when he went to the base each day, so I was home doing laundry on an almost daily basis. Shirley was still in diapers. I had so hoped to have her potty-trained by now but it wasn't going as well as I had envisioned. After all, she was only 13 months old. Babies usually aren't trained that early but with a new one on the way, I had really hoped for a miracle. 

Everything we had done since we arrived on this island had been an adventure and even doing the laundry was an adventure in itself. The washing machine sat on the concrete lanai just outside the kitchen door. One day I was putting a load of clothes in to wash and along comes Mr. Ching, our landlord. He was a quiet man, shuffling along noiselessly in his flat leather sandals so I had not heard him approach. He paused, watched me intently for a few seconds then said, "We don't use hot water here. Always wash with cold water" and he walked away. I had diapers to do but this was a different kind of life so I'd go with it. From that day forward I used cold water.

There was no clothes dryer. However there was a set of stairs leading from the lanai to a flat roof overhead. I piled the wet clothes into a wicker basket, braced it on my hip and started up the stairs. As I hung the clothes on the clothesline, I had a full view of Diamond Head. As sure as I hung my clothes out, there would come, sweeping over the volcano, dark clouds that deposited a daily sprinkle on us.

Diamond Head stands guard over the island on the Eastern edge of Waikiki's coastline. Back a long, long time ago (some folks say 300,000 years) there was a huge eruption from this volcano. But, I wasn't worried while I stood slowly hanging out my laundry and drinking in the sight. Diamond Head is monogenetic which means that it will only erupt once. It's already done it's thing so there's nothing to worry about. I finished pinning the last item to the clothes line and headed back downstairs to my girls and my household chores. 

One morning I got up not feeling my chipper self. Soon the pains started, very far apart, easy at this point. I continued on doing whatever was necessary and waited for Elbert to come home. This was not my 'first rodeo' and I certainly was aware of what to expect and when. I'd know when it was time to head to the hospital.

My labor wasn't as tough or as long as it had been in the past.  I was twenty three years old, young, healthy and well-versed in the process. When I had dialated sufficiently I was wheeled into the delivery room. I was so ready for this to be over.

After our son arrived and he had been properly cared for, he was briefly held before me and then a nurse whisked him off to the nursery. He was such a beautiful baby, perfectly formed, his eyes blinking as he looked around. It sure was bright out here in the world! 

The nurse, with our baby wrapped snuggly in a blue blanket, ran into Elbert in the hallway. The new daddy was so thrilled and reached out to either touch or take the baby but the nurse quickly shook her head and stepped quickly away. There would be time, very soon in fact, that we would have Michael all to ourselves.

Tripler Army Hospital sits on the side of Moanalua Ridge and can be seen from as far away as the city of Honolulu. It is the largest military hospital in the Asian and Pacific Rim region and the building is impressively painted a coral pink. The officer in charge of designing the hospital during WWII knew that many of our young men and women who were stationed on the island often used the Royal Hawaiian Hotel as their home away from home. The hotel was painted coral pink! The officer knew that many of them would end up at the new hospital,  wounded or sick and wanted the building to remind them of happier times. So, Tripler became a pink colored hospital.

After a short stay in the nursery, baby Michael was wheeled into my room in his little bassinet. The hospital practiced what was called 'rooming-in' so that the mother would quickly learn how to take care of her baby.  But let me tell you one thing. A woman who has gone through nine months of pregnancy, vomiting her guts out, walking around like a duck waddling while bumping into things and not being able to bend over, and then go through labor for hours on end to give birth needs her rest! I loved being able to look over from my bed and see my infant sweetly sleeping but in the middle of the night, he's crying, wet, hungry and all I wanted to do was sleep. Not a nurse in sight! So, I am not a huge fan of rooming-in.

Every afternoon I would slip out of my bed, put on my pretty blue robe, brush my hair, swipe a bit of lipstick on my pale lips and walk out onto the balcony. It was time for our car to come winding up the hill. Elbert would be on his way home from work. The first afternoon he brought me a bouquet of beautiful orchids. Now, who gets orchids when they go to the hospital? I did and I loved it. It made me feel very special and loved.

Elbert would come into the room, give me a swift hug and kiss but the thing he most wanted to do was lift that blanket-swaddled bundle out of the bassinet and cuddle his son. I would just sit on the edge of my bed, a smile on my face. It was so cute, so loving, a picture I will never forget.

Michael did extremely well, quickly gaining strength and weight. We stayed our usual three days in the hospital and then we got our release papers. Michael's sisters were anxiously waiting to get a first glimpse of their baby brother. I'd missed my girls. I was so ready to gather them in my lap and give them huge hugs.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Our New Apartment

Elbert got busy looking for us an apartment. It was obvious that we could not afford to stay much longer at the motel. Why he did not look for one closer to the Barber's Point Air Station where he worked, I have no idea but I am so glad that he instead chose the one we rented. It was on Castle Street, near the end of Ala Wai Canal, with Diamond Head watching over us.

The building was two story, eight apartments in all, sitting perpendicular to the street with a small paved area in front and a open garage across the way. The only grass was a tiny bit of lawn in one corner between the garage and the fence. The entrance was anchored by tall coco palms, heavy with fruit and large bushes of  hibiscus covered with red blossoms.

Our apartment was small, but then we were used to small spaces. The master bedroom faced the front, while the girls room was in back. I'd deal with where to put the coming baby when it got here. There was a living room with space for a small table. You might could call that an eating alcove if you stretched your imagination real far. And, then a wee kitchen with all the essentials, oven, refrigerator, cabinets. 

The back door opened onto a lanai overgrown with enormous Split-leaf Philodendron, the leaves bigger than my Mama's Sunday dinner platter that she always piled heaps of fried chicken on. The dark green vines were thick and tangled. 

And, dripping over the slatted fence out back was fuchsia colored bougainvillea. 

There were flowers everywhere I looked. It seemed that just about any plant would grow well from the tropical air, the almost daily sprinkle of showers and the abundant sunshine.

Elbert was a Radioman First Class, now stationed at Barber's Point near the town of Kapolei. His duty there would be two years in length and then we would be moved again. He drove about 40 miles round-trip every day from Castle Street, through the city of Honolulu, circling wide around Pearl Harbor and on to his work. It wasn't the most enjoyable thing for him to have to do and the price of gasoline, it was sky-high. Stateside a gallon of gas cost 31 cents, it was three times that price on the island. Buying gasoline for the car was really cutting into our budget. I felt that, at some time, we would have to move closer to the base and I did not want to do that.

But, for now we would just enjoy all these glorious flowers, the sights and sounds we were so unfamiliar with, the experience of living in 'paradise'. We were ready to embrace all that Hawaii had to offer.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

The Beach at Waikiki

The traffic was busily scooting to and fro along the streets going wherever it needed to go. People (a mixture of locals and tourists) crowded the streets, a rippling ribbon of color that never seemed to end. Men dressed in shirts with large colorful flowers, women in flowing mumus with the same explosive burst of shades of every description. 


There were tall palms, and large hibiscus bushes in full bloom, croton plants, fragrant pakike flowers and things I've never witnessed before in my life. Living in California had introduced me to a different atmosphere and lifestyle than I'd ever been used to before, but that could not compete in any way with what was laid out before me now.

As we approached Waikiki the hotels took over the landscape, embracing both sides of the narrow street. Tall ones, short ones, large ones, pink ones, tan ones and small ones like the one we were booked in. Our budget was pretty tight. Maybe one day we could be lucky enough to check into perhaps the Royal Hawaiian or the Hilton. But, not now.

 Our motel sat off a side street almost hidden by flowering shrubs, the walkway lined with tiki torches, the flames flickering against a backdrop of greenery. We checked in at the desk then found our tiny room. I settled the kids down to rest and walked over to the window, which was small and higher up on the wall than you would imagine. I pulled the drape back and there was a jungle just outside. Huge philadendron vines, tall banana trees with unripe fruit hanging in greenish-yellow clusters. 

Like I said before, I had never seen anything like it. And, I immediately fell in love with Honolulu.

The sun was sinking lower in the western sky, soon night would fall. After a good long rest, we headed a couple blocks down to the beach. It was gorgeous, the sand, the palm trees softly swaying and the sounds of a ukelele drifting over the air toward us. Diamond Head sat in front of us, A scene I'd seen in pictures but never in real life. This didn't happen to us. Maybe we had stumbled into someone else's dream or movie or something. But, it was real alright.

 As soon as Shirley's chubby, little feet touched the sand, she started jumping around with her hands reaching upward for her Daddy to get her off that weird feeling stuff. So, he carried her while we strolled along the water's edge. Marie skipped along, sending sand flying with her feet. In awhile I tired. After all I was carrying extra weight so we headed back. Walking on the sand pulled at your leg muscles and slowed your steps. Going back the way we came seemed almost impossible.  For me, anyway.

There in the early moonlight sat the pale pink castle of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Elbert decided that we'd just cut through their courtyard and continue back to the motel on a more stable sidewalk. As we were weaving our way through some outdoor tables on a lanai we were suddenly affronted by a security guard. Now, that was a scary event. All we were doing was trying to reach the street, Elbert told them. My pregnant wife needs to get back to our motel and rest. Begrudgingly, the guard said we could continue. We silently was off on our way thinking, "Well, thanks, buddy. We weren't harming anything. So kind of you to let us take up some of your precious, expensive, exclusive space"!

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Our Arrival

(the family back in Alabama)

We were in paradise. I had no idea how it had happened but surely the gods were looking down upon us, giving us this wonderful opportunity. In truth, this wasn't even the half of it. We just didn't know lay ahead of us yet.

The girls and I had arrived at the Honolulu airport, weary after an exhausting ten-hour flight from LAX. We all were so excited that our family of four would be together again. And that family was about to get larger. I was eight months pregnant and counting. I'd struggled through airports, a diaper bag flung over one shoulder, my shoulder strap bag on the other, thirteen month old Shirley on a hip and five year old Marie hanging onto my somewhat free hand. There had been delays and worries to deal with. Due to some mix-up my flight reservations stopped in Los Angeles, California and I had no passage to continue on across the Pacific. 

(A Pan-American Stratocruiser like the one we flew to Oahu on)

The girls and I had spent the night in a motel, me washing out diapers in the bathroom sink and draping them over anything available so that they would dry. Next morning, diapers all dry, neatly folded and in the diaper bag, the three of us headed back to the ticket counter asking, no begging, the agent for a seat on a plane. Any seat, any plane. At this point, I did not care. I had to get us to Honolulu, to Elbert, to just feel safe and secure. If I couldn't get us out of there no telling how long it would take. I didn't have time to waste!

                                       (This is how the airport looked when we arrived. Picture from internet)

Imagine, if you can, the total excitement we all felt as we deplaned and there was Elbert, tall and handsome in his Navy uniform, running to gather us up with hugs and kisses, draping fragrant yellow and pink plumeria leis about our necks. After all the hugs and kisses were done, we hurried to our car and he  drove off toward Waikiki and a small motel where he had reserved a room for us.

I was mostly drinking in the sight of my wonderful husband sitting behind the wheel of our Ford Fairlane, maneuvering the streets like he'd always done so. Yet, he had only been in Oahu about six weeks ahead of us. Our car had been shipped over from the states, along with our household goods, just waiting for us to arrive. Now we could set up housekeeping and be a family again. But, before I could even think about the regular routine of daily living, I needed to acclimate myself to this completely new and different world we had just dropped down into. We were sort of like Dorothy when she finally arrived in Oz. We sure 'aren't in Alabama anymore, Toto'. I was completely awe-struck by my surroundings. I'd never seen anything like it.

Our New Son

I spent the first week or so trying to unpack, organize and acclimate our family to our new surroundings. Soon it would be school time and ...