A/K/A The second installment in my life story.
Chapter Two: One Big Pig
What is your earliest childhood memory?
I have already mentioned sitting on my grandfather’s lap sharing a thermos of cream of mushroom soup for lunch in the house he built for us in New Jersey. That would have been in 1972 or so, making me three years old. I also recall hanging out in the backyard with my brother and watching a blimp float by overhead. Odd, the memories your brain clings to.
And I very clearly remember the night of December 31, 1973.
We were back in Hawaii, my dad’s second tour of duty there, and living on the bottom floor of a two-story home owned by a very friendly Filipino family named the Macadangdangs, who resided upstairs. I think I have the spelling right…I checked on Facebook, and there are actually still Macadangdangs living in Honolulu. I wonder if they’re related, or if the name is as common as Smith or Jones in our country?
Yeah, I kinda doubt that.
Mrs. Macadangdang (it’s just so fun to say!) doted over my brother and I. We were a novelty in the Salt Lake neighborhood near Pearl Harbor, a largely Hawaiian and Asian enclave – there weren’t a lot of blond-haired white boys living in the area, and the family took a shining to us. She would make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for me and Scott, serving them to us on a little plastic table on the patio. Most of the Air Force families living off base were confined to high rise apartment buildings in the area; my parents had actually taken the step of renting the bottom portion of their house, and it definitely gave us more of a sense of the local flavor.
Especially that New Year’s Eve. Thanks to the pig.
The Macadangdangs had decided to celebrate the passing of another year in a very befitting Hawaiian fashion – by digging a pit in their backyard and roasting a whole pig. There’s an experience those poor apartment dwellers missed out on! The scent of roasted pig wafting through the air that day was indescribable, and as evening rolled around the house filled with friends and family. The Macadangdangs (still fun!) were kind enough to invite our family upstairs to share in the feast. I remember a living room filled with people, good food and lots of conversation, and as the night wore on, growing sleepy in an armchair. I think I lasted until midnight…I do remember a countdown and party favors and the usual festive “Happy New Year!” cheers erupting from the grownups…though maybe that’s just my mind filling in the obvious blanks. I was four months away from my fifth birthday, though – old enough to trust in my memory.
Eventually we qualified for base housing and moved to Hickam AFB, bidding the Macadangdangs farewell.
Growing up on the island of Oahu was a pretty distinctive experience. There were trips to the beach at Waikiki nearly every weekend. Hikes through bamboo forests, visits to Chinese temples, exotic foods like passionfruit and starfruit and the best bananas I have ever eaten, sourced locally from native Hawaiians selling their wares alongside the road. I wrote a post last year about how my brother and I are celebrities in Japan, thanks to all the photos Japanese tourists took of the two of us. I just wish I knew how to leverage that childhood fame into fortune.
Or at least a decent discount on sushi.
These were my formative years, when random scattered memories stitched themselves together into a fully woven tapestry, a background that I clearly recall to this day. My childhood, my past. I became self-aware. I started school. I developed a crush on a girl or two. In other words, I was growing up.
As interesting as island life was, I found it rather boring. Oahu is about 600 square miles, and after a couple of years started to feel rather confining. Once you’ve seen and done everything – multiple times – you start longing for something more. By 1977, I was eight years old and had no recollection of experiencing actual seasons. Christmas in Hawaii was particularly bizarre; Santa arrived every year on an outrigger canoe dressed in swimming trunks. Ho, ho…huh?! The holiday to me had nothing to do with snow and reindeer; it was instead a balmy and humid 82 degrees without fail. I began to feel like I was missing out on a lot, and envied people who lived on the mainland.
So, when my father received orders in 1977 that would take us to Ohio, I was thrilled.
You will recall, of course, my road trip earlier this summer that centered on a return to Dayton. There’s a reason I wanted so badly to go back: I absolutely loved it there.
But that’s another story…