“You cannot foresee the ways a community will make you feel welcome.” – Mike Perry, author of “Population: 485”
We moved to our muddy, potholed road in Kapa`a 12 years ago. Then and now, our street has a reputation for being tough – a toughness we’ve grown to cherish. It’s rutted and narrow. We don’t have streetlights. There are abandoned cars and parts that the County won’t touch because of our “private road” status.
Our road goes nowhere but here, so anyone driving down had better have a reason to be there, and for that matter, best not drive over 5 miles per hour or suffer a tongue-lashing from any one of our neighbors, including me. We holler from our kitchens and carports “Slow down!” with a threatening growl. I’ve personally chased down unfamiliar cars driving too fast.
Our short, narrow road is a parade of children aging 5 to 16 years-old on bikes, skateboards, scooters or even bumping along in retired golf carts with a dog sitting shotgun.
Most our neighbors have close to 50 years living here in the same houses they built with husbands or wives. Half of them have children and grandchildren now living here too.
Gladys named the road. She was its first resident. Our one street sign sits about three feet shorter than what’s legal ever since someone banged it with their car and it had to be shortened to its straightest point for resurrection.
When we arrived in 2001, a neighbor introduced herself with a bag of poi and zip lock full of dried shrimp. This radiant 74 year-old had worked in the canneries after high school. One time we heard her husband inadvertently locked their front gate and she’d forgotten her keys, so she scaled the chain link in a dress and heels. I like this image. It captures something of the spirit of our neighborhood.
We have one naughty one though, and by naughty I mean the police visit regularly. I’m not at liberty to say why, but it’s just an unfortunate situation all the way around. I’m grateful it’s only one – well, and that they don’t live next door to me.
Our closest neighbor fills our fridge with produce regularly. His son, who just joined the workforce, carries on the tradition. Under one roof are multiple generations, yet this family always has more to share.
When we first moved in the children were cautious. They were so shy they wouldn’t crack even a small smile when I’d wave at them. That’s ancient history. All it took was one brave boy.
He stood at the edge of the driveway where the rutted dirt road meets the stained red edge of our concrete. His age was impossible to guess. He was a big kid, but clearly under 10 years-old.
“My dad’s in landscaping,” he said with some authority. “I can help you with this.”
By “this” he meant the mess we’d inherited when purchasing our house and property. We’d cleared the buffalo grass that grew to the rusted edge of our tin roof, and now stood in mountains around the borders of the yard.
There were still boards on the windows and a rusted Mercury in the back yard. We even had bullet holes in one window. Another neighbor boy told me he’d been sleeping in that room the night the two bullets entered.
Our landscape consultant shared a few ideas on yard beautification. He was generous and respectful, not stepping on to the concrete until invited. It would be months before I’d meet his mother. I saw him in line at Wall-Mart and accosted her when I recognized him.
I think I opened with, “I adore your son.”
Recently when our lychee tree was fruiting, this boy, now a man, drove his dad’s forklift down to our house to raise my husband on a platform to pick fruit from the top of the tree. His 2 year-old daughter sat beside him on the bench seat.
Last year when my mother-in-law fell and broke her arm in the front yard, he was first on the scene, followed quickly by a half dozen other neighbors there to help.
Our neighborhood isn’t one where kids go to trick-or-treat. In fact, we don’t often go on to each other’s property unless it’s to leave fruit on the porch. What we do though is help one another; and we drive slowly down our dirt road so as not to kick up more dust or put our kids in danger.