Islands Far Away


When I introduce our family as being new to the islands, people here immediately get a deeply concerned look on their faces.  “Oh,” they say, sounding worried, “how are you adjusting?”

Then I wonder if I should be worried about something  I don’t know.

Living in Hawaii hasn’t been too much of a culture shock. Sure, people still ride in the back of trucks, despite the seatbelt laws.  You have to take your shoes off before you go inside someone’s house– but I’m used to that.  My mom made everyone do that.  It keeps the carpets clean.  And everyone calls “flip flops” slippers and the preschoolers take them off in the play yard.  And there’s tons of Asian food in the markets and things like Spam musubi for sale– but I like Asian food and nobody has made me eat Spam against my will, but it’s no big deal to us.  I suppose if my husband’s nephews had to move here, the ones who can’t handle pizza crust or chicken on bone, who shudder at sushi– those guys might be in for a culture shock.  Or the fact that none of the streets downtown make any sense, or that you can depend on any street to go back reliably toward a freeway entrance if you get off and need to turn around– that is difficult.

The shock really comes from arriving in a place that’s hours behind the place you left behind, suddenly so far from family.  The other day, my brother called to tell me my father, while visiting his family in Pennsylvania, had a heart episode and got a pacemaker.  I realized several things: I don’t have my Pennsylvania relatives contact info, I did not know my father was going to the East Coast (he lives on the West Coast) and I am very, very far away.  Too far to help.  Too many hours behind to even effectively communicate.

I called my father, who is doing fine.  He even went to Boston the next week to visit my brother (with my aunt to assist).  And you know what he wanted to know?  He just asked what he could get the kids for Christmas, like he always does.

Now, it seems, my brother and I are equi-distant from my dad.  It feels very remote.  Like being on an island. Duh.

Even the news seems distanced, coming hours later.  By the time I wake up in the morning, it’s afternoon in NY and the headlines are already in place.  People have already died, accidents have already happened, wars have already begun.  There is a hurricane coming near us on Monday, but even that bit of local news seems unreal, perhaps because I still don’t know my channels except for Nickelodeon and Disney, nor when anything is on.  So if the kids’ schools hadn’t told them to be prepared for possibly wild weather come Monday, I would probably be caught, unawares, wandering the Long’s parking lot and wondering at the heaviness of the rain.

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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