The Clubhouse Chronicles: When Friends Come to Visit . . .
Bio: Malia, Josh, and Mehana Collins are the current live-in residents at the HTMC clubhouse. Malia was born and raised in Maunawili and has always talked about moving back home. She started writing a series on moving to and living at the clubhouse. This is the fifth installment.
When Friends Come to Visit….a House Full of Guests and One Shower
We’re more than halfway through our one-year residency at the clubhouse and we’re meeting and occasionally exceeding the expectations on the Formal Performance Evaluation of HTMC Clubhouse Residents form. Turns out, we’re very good at property maintenance, yard work, and writing our monthly reports (exceeds expectations) but not so good at carrying out projects we decided on back in January (partially meets expectations). We had big dreams before moving in—I imagined a community garden with rows of herbs and crisp lettuce, fat tomatoes, peppers and kabocha squash, even long beans twisting up and over the chicken-wire grid. Our community garden began and stumbled along with two vine-ripened tomato plants we could not get to fruit, until just recently, when a couple of thumb-sized cherry tomatoes appeared, a liliko’i vine that starts in the neighbor’s yard and bends into ours, and an oregano plant gifted to us by a club member. I mix the chopped oregano leaves into pasta sauce and strain the liliko’i juice into simple syrup concoctions consumed while looking out at the Ko’olau Mountains wondering why we can’t get more things to grow. The mango tree was barren this year, the ti leaf plants from my family’s yards in Kaneohe and Maunawili rooted and tucked tenderly into the ground, watered, but leggy and fragile. I’m still surprised by how quickly the topsoil ends and the sand begins. When the kids were little, they dug a hole in our backyard in Boise convinced that if they kept digging they’d end up in Hawaii. When I dig and hit sand a couple of inches down, I can see years back to the kids’ chubby hands in the soil. I want to tell them—look, we finally dug deep enough! We’re in Hawaii!
When we first moved in, I didn’t know what the sound was coming from outside, like heads, I thought, like heads falling out of the sky. Now, we can differentiate between the thuds of the coconuts falling from our trees from those falling next door. If the coconuts land without bursting open, my daughter and I split them on the coconut spike (is there a real word for that thing?) and shake the coconut water into glasses we chill in the fridge. When my son was home, he spooned meat out of the coconuts and kept it in the fridge for later, and I kept that mug of coconut meat because it was his and this house has so little of Max in it I hold on to anything I can for as long as I can.
Mehana reads in the hammock after school on Wednesdays and sometimes I catch her looking up at the empty mango tree wondering—what happened? Because living in a house with a mango tree was her dream—and after checking on it most mornings, to once a week, to never, that dream disappeared, too. We had plans for a fancy outdoor shower project, but have been happy enough with the outdoor shower on the side of the hau arbor. I imagined teaching drop-in writing workshops in the nook upstairs, and think if you’re reading this you should sign up for my writing workshop in November so we can bump that score from partially meeting to meeting, even, fingers crossed, exceeding expectations.
It’s fall and getting cold in Boise, Idaho where my students are. This morning one of them wrote about being worried the first big frost is going to wipe out the mint he’s been nursing along since early October. When I remember I’ll spend this year without pulling out the winter clothes, I can’t believe my good luck. Just now, Josh called me, exuberant—Walked down to the beach between calls, he said, the bay is like a pond. I’m taking my canoe out.
Last week, three friends came to visit and I walked them around the yard the first morning, because I felt like I didn’t truly meet the clubhouse until I walked the perimeter of the yard, met what was there, and the possibilities of what could come. I saw the abandoned garden tucked into the back corner, the plumeria and hibiscus trees along the side yard, the crown flowers (my tutu’s favorite kind of lei) mauka and the kukui nut trees makai. We walked through the gate and down to the ocean so they could see the water and put a picture to the sound of the waves they heard the night before. This is my favorite walk, the way the path opens up to the water, the naupaka with their tiny half flowers, and Manana Island to the right, like a giant shark stretched across the surface. Clubhouse living is a different kind of living: the single shower is a hassle in the morning, especially when folks are visiting the clubhouse, and suddenly the upstairs microwave is on the fritz. Last week’s rain brought with it a line of ants and string of broken lizard eggs along the upstairs kitchen floor. But one night, watching the moon rise, one of the visiting friends asks, do you do this every night? I wish, I say, not every night.
I’ve been thinking about my kuleana to this place, the house and the land, and wonder if this place is taking care of me, too. Sunday, on a hike I can’t name or say anything about, Josh and I hiked together. It’s been ages since that happened. He loves the long, gnarly ridge hikes. I love an intermediate, shady valley hike. We named bird sounds (a shama sang from deep in a copse of strawberry guava trees), and talked story, losing count of the stream crossings. At the end of the hike, I said—let me walk out before you, like I’m faster, ok—and he said—maybe you should carry me out on your back. We walked out together; and almost as if we didn’t want the day to end, we kept the conversation going once we got home, and jumped in the ocean to cool off.
Maybe that’s how the clubhouse takes care of us: it’s both mountain and ocean. It gently nudges me out into the world, onto the trails or into the water. It’s become how I orient myself when I feel unmoored—the mountains on one side and the ocean on the other—this place that wasn’t part of our story until six months ago—that we now call home.
Next month: Is it still winter if there is no snow?