Getting to Hope You Like Me

So far, we only know a couple of people here, all of whom were introduced to me by  mainland friends and all of whom I liked very much (and if you’re reading this, you know who you are) but none of whom it is practical to see on a daily basis, being too far away to drop in on for a cup of joe.

Someone told me that Asians, who make up a large portion of Hawaii’s populace, are aloof until you get to know them.  Well, I’m aloof until you get to know me, so welcome to the aloofness party where we will endlessly circle each other.

Our neighbors keep to themselves.  On one side, we hear loud one-sided fights coming from the townhouse, just the woman of the house yelling, day after day, at her husband, cursing in broken English.  At first we couldn’t understand her, even thinking she was yelling in another language, until one day my husband happened to be in the carport and caught this gem: “What da hell you think you doing, you goddamn motherfucker?” said calmly, clearly and so slowly that at first my husband thought she directed it at him, until he realized the husband was out in the yard, taking care of their three yippy dogs.  On the other side of us is a two-parent one-adult child Japanese family who own four cars and who like to cut wood in the evening or early mornings using loud power tools, who have an old Triumph covered up in cloth that they occasionally start and rev, but never drive.  Two townhouses down from us, a family dumps their furniture in front of the “NO DUMPING” sign by the maintenance shed.  One more down from the furniture dumpers lives a family with one dog that they take out and one dog they keep in that we have never seen, not even at the front window, who howls pitifully when the other dog gets to go for a walk.  All of this does not inspire us to knock on anyone’s door.  We hardly ever see anyone, unless we’re in the car and they’re getting into theirs.

Even my husband’s work cronies keep to themselves.  This may be because of my husband’s job, the compliance guy at a finance office, which is rather like the IRS man is to us.  Or it may be the nature of his office, or my husband’s naturally Mr. Darcy-ish all-business demeanor, or the fact everyone has their own families and traffic issues to deal with without adding any extra outings or people to the mix.

And I, of course, work alone, like a hitman.

But the middle school, of all places, had a BBQ last night for Elyse’s team.  When I was in middle school, my parents did not go to any event.  I don’t even think they went to open house.  So we were nervous to go, to meet a sea of strangers.

Elyse was excited, putting on a special outfit consisting of pink plaid shorts, black leggings laced at the edges, white socks pulled up all the way, gold high tops, and a blue and black tiger-striped blouse.  Ah yes, I did make ONE tiny comment about the possibility that the outfit did not match.  She rolled her eyes.  “Deal with it.  I’m a teenager.”

“You’re only 10,” I pointed out.

Almost a teenager.”


It was a picnic, each family an island of its own on a blanket or tatami mat in the center quad of the school, eating out of take-out boxes and chatting with teachers.  I know these events.  I know that every parent that I’ve talked to is squeamish about meeting new parents.

We had our dinner and met the parent coordinator.  We sat on the blanket, watching the parents who knew each other talking, those that did not either eating or playing with their kids.

The principal got up and said a few words, including that the school’s International Baccalaureate application had been approved into the next stage, and that this could be the first class in all of Hawaii that has six years of an IB program, as the high school is applying also.  IB is a terrific program, awesomely cross-curricular and humanities-based, and the teachers here are extremely dedicated in the way you wish all teachers would be.  What we learned, post moving here, is that this middle school is so good that parents take their kids out of private schools to come here.

There were taiko drums next, causing Kaiya to cover her ears and Elyse to take her away in concern, telling us basically that we were horrible parents for not driving away on the spot.

Then things got fun.  A  lady exhorted us to get up and do the Pokemon Ondo.  “Don’t worry, we’ll teach it to you,” she yelled. “Kids make a circle in the center.  Adults on the outside.”

“I am NOT doing that,” Elyse said, after we dragged her back to the action.

“Yeah, you are,” I said.

Luckily, a girl she knew was already in place, so Elyse got next to her, complaining all the while.  Ethan got in, clapping his hands.  Anything called POKEMON is okay by Ethan.

So we got in circles and danced.

Doing the Pokemon Ondo.
Doing the Pokemon Ondo.

It wasn’t a difficult dance, consisting of twirling your arms around each other on a count to four, putting your fist to the right, repeating to the left, some clapping in the air, some clapping on the knees, and then saying some Japanese words I’m not sure I ever got right.  But it was fun.

taiko drummer and lady teaching us the Pokemon OndoThe kids got more and more into it, doing the movements with manic energy.  And that was before they broke out the cake.

Here’s the Pokemon Ondo from a different event, in case you must see what it was like. “It is the BEST DANCE EVER,” Ethan says.  He doesn’t like any other dance, so I guess that’s high praise from him.

After we had cake, people began to disperse.  I felt we should meet the parents of the girl Elyse had been hanging out with.  Now, in these situations, my husband Cadillac is not bashful, but nor does he care that much. I, on the other hand, always want to meet people but am bashful.  Thus it was I who followed him over to this family’s blanket, where they were watching their son make odd bird noises.

Turns out they’re lovely people, they live about a mile away from us, and they’re not from here either.  And their son immediately hit it off with Ethan, talking about Pokemon.

Then we found Kaiya talking to a girl who is in her preschool class, and her dad came over and talked to Cadillac, inviting him to Sandy’s for daybreak surfing with his friends.

And that, my friends, is how the Dilloways began making friends in Hawaii.

Published by Margaret Dilloway

Middle grade and women's fiction novelist. FIVE THINGS ABOUT AVA ANDREWS, (Balzer + Bray 2020); SUMMER OF A THOUSAND PIES. MOMOTARO: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters (Disney Hyperion); TALE OF THE WARRIOR GEISHA and SISTERS OF HEART AND SNOW, out now from Putnam Books. HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE was a finalist for the John Gardner fiction award. THE CARE AND HANDLING OF ROSES WITH THORNS is the 2013 Literary Tastes Best Women's Fiction Pick for the American Library Association. Mother of three children, wife to one, slave to a cat, and caretaker of the best overgrown teddy bear on Earth, Gatsby the Goldendoodle.

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