Our first week here I resolved to be a different person than I have ever been before-- I decided to be a friendly neighbor. We moved from a tiny 350 square foot dilapidated (actually condemned) apartment, and we could hear the floor boards creaking under our neighbors feet, and hear the hot oil sizzling in their woks. But, we knew nothing about them. We made guesses about their nationalities based on what language they shouted in. I'm pretty sure the people a few doors to our left with the three skinny kids and the dead-houseplant-turned ashtray were Russians. Or maybe hungarian? French?

In a city, you can afford to ignore your neighbors-- there are 30 million other people to be friends with.
In Hawaii, it was different. In a small town you don't have the luxury of ignoring the people around you. They're all you have. It's not like the city where, oh well, Nope, in a small town, you irritate one family, that's like a third of the population by blood and the rest by marriage.

So we spent one evening rolling sugary dough in cinnamon and sugar, made snickerdoodles, and wrapped them up on our landlords' plates and delivered them all around the neighborhood.
Yes, we should have used paper plates for these peace-pipe treats. But handing off a permanent object created a moment in the future when interaction would be inevitable. It expressed a kind of faith that yes, you and I will meet again.

We stacked the cookies onto the plates, wrapped them in flappy plastic wrap and set out. We hid the stack of plates in the street, behind the back wheels of Uncle Kimo's pickup, while we took one up into the garage.

Uncle Kimo basically lives in the garage. It's the norm. The houses are small and musty but the garages are expansive-- full of everything you'd need: clotheslines, folding chairs, stereo, a moldy TV (that I never saw on-- maybe out of order?), a half finished welding project (destined to become a smoke house someday), salvaged lumber, chunky plastic toy bikes for the grandsons, a huge wok on a cinderblock stand and propane tank, a steel barrel cut in half and ade into a bbq, and several vast coolers (always full of beers and bottled water) that doubled as benches when pulled belly up to the long folding tables.

So he was in the garage when we went over that evening, already jovial in the after work beer glow, he waved the cookies down on the table. We left-- and tried to surreptitiously pick up the stack of cookies from under his car.

Auntie Colleen wouldn't open the screen door except a crack to let the cookies pass-- sideways-- through. "You folks go to that church?" Yes, we admitted we did. "Oh. We used to go there. Not anymore." And the screen door snapped shut.

To our left-- there is no apparent front door-- just the garage used for normal trafficking during the day but shut at night, and then a sliding glass door. We ducked through crab-spider webs and knocked on the glass door-- somebody shouted once, then again, voice cracking, and a little kid came running to the door. It was dark inside-- just TV blue lightning light. We handed the cookies to the kid and he ran off.

The house with the big pine trees just down the way was Pono's house-- a kid we had met at church. A young guy answered the door in his tanktop and muscles. His little daughters peeked through the window and around his legs. "Hey, let me know if you wanna pump some iron some time!" There was no sign of Pono-- but later we figured out that tank-top-wearing Hana's mom had adopted Pono and that they all lived there-- Auntie Val, Pono, Hana and his girlfriend and their three kids, and 4 limpy dogs and an endless train of lame and mucus-eyed cats that Auntie adopts and maintains to give them a dignified death.

So we sent our snickerdoodles, our aloha, and our landlord's china out into the social ether. Weeks later, the first of the plates came back, with some mochi cake. Months later the next, with banana and months again the last couple, with muffins and store bought cookies.

It was a silly gesture to make all those cookies and take them around, and barge into our neighbors private lives. It's a bossy gesture-- demanding relationships in exchange for snickerdoodles. But it worked-- we became friends with nearly all of those neighbors and hosted parties and crashed bbqs and lit firecrackers and had baby showers and picnics and went to concerts together.

All for the price of a little awkwardness and snickerdoodles.


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