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Makalehua--How I Found My Long Lost Sister on eBay!
And When I Opened My Eyes...
There are a million and one stories on eBay. This is just one of them.
What's unique about this tale is that it involves an irony of ironies...the epitome of paradoxical situations.
But, first, some background information is in order as a prelude to my story.
I was the oldest of six children in my family of origin. The above photo was taken sometime in the fall or winter months in our back yard. As you can see, we didn't have any snow that day. In fact, for as long as I lived on Kaua'i, it never did snow. Rumor has it that the white stuff eventually showed up on the highest elevations of the dormant volcanoes on the Big Island as well as on Maui's Mt. Haleakala, so maybe there's hope yet that Jack Frost will show up one of these days on the Garden Island. I mean, the weather patterns swirling around our big blue marble are getting crazier every year, so you just never know.
For now, the local people of Kaua'i happily plop down their hard-earned greenbacks for the closest thing to snow that they can find in this tropical Eden--the sweet, succulent, cool, and miniscule particles of shave ice, the island's decisively superior version of snow cones. And the people's choice award? Every year, the vendor from Kapa'a, the humble Okinawan man who--if you believe the hype you hear in the local barber shops--made a million dollar business out of finely chopped-up blocks of ice, flavored by a dozen or so tropical nectars in a rainbow's spectrum of colors...is, if you'll pardon the pun, the very chill Aaron Furugen.
Ah, but I digress. Aaron will have to take his place in line with the hundreds of other Hub ideas doing a Snap! Crackle! Pop! number inside my coconut of a head. I swear, ever since I joined HubPages, my brain has been on this non-stop recess where the elementary school kids from kindergarten to Grade 6 are released all at once from their classrooms, each of them immediately diving into a roller coaster Robin Williams monologue...you know, the kind where anything and everything is fair game as an improvisational prop.
Okay, reel it in. These people, followers or not, have only so much time and even less patience with this helter skelter rambling. They'll bang that gong quicker than snot and scurry off to hop another Hub if you take them on a trip to Peru...
Sorry, folks, I was just having a talk with...um, never mind.
So, in that picture above, starting with the front row, that's Glenn (9) on the left, Jan (8) in the center, and Silas (who wants to be called Charlie) (6). The pretty woman with the beehive is Mom, and next to her is Kathleen (12). In the back, that's Gerald (14) on the right, and yours truly (16) on the left.
In 1968, my father--a young police officer at the time--took that family photo with a Kodak Brownie camera.
Back in the day, it was a cool camera, alright. But its shutter speed paled in comparison to the ethereal light year passage of time.
A nano-second after my dad took that picture, I blinked.
And when I opened my eyes, it would be 44 years later...
Just 'Round the Bend
That's what life does to us.
When we're children, it seems like we have forever to grow up.
And, then, good or bad, sad or happy, there's a strange kind of inexplicable switch that's turned on. We don't notice it because by the time it happens, we're so consumed by all the goals and deadlines we've got to meet; responsibilities and obligations we need to attend to; new relationships, including love and marriage and babies; careers; and personal pursuits.
I mean, that's just the way life is.
At some point in time, it's imperative to cut the apron strings, not just the ones attached to Mom or Dad, but the ones less talked about in sociology classes or on Oprah...the strings that once kept us anchored to our siblings.
For me, personally, the feelings about this necessary and universal transition were mixed. I was more of a home boy, not especially intrigued by the romantic notion of travel, and yet there was this growing restlessness within and an accompanying awareness that there had to be more to life than living on an island.
Even if that island were Paradise itself.
But what did I know about taking things for granted? I was a teenage kid, and like most teenage kids, I was full of myself and low on wisdom.
I had wanted, for much of my adolescent years, to discover what life was like outside of the rock I had grown up on. It was more than just a passing fancy about finding greener pastures. It was about discovering who that stranger was that I kept seeing in the mirror each morning. No longer content to be defined as so and so's kid or so and so's big brother, I wanted to determine the length and breadth and depth of my own identity. On my own terms. And in my own time.
And so that's how it happens...this gradual growing apart from one's family of origin.
In my heart, there was this indelibly written understanding that ours would always remain a close-knit family.
Even so, the current of life incessantly tugs and pulls until the long-embedded driftwood is uprooted from its comfort zone of mud, sand, and debris and begins its Odyssean journey for adventures just 'round the bend...
No Excuses...It is What it Is
Whether justifiably or regrettably--the jury's still out on this one--I only made it back home to the islands twice in the last forty years.
The siblings I'd left behind in the early '70's had been little children.
And now these little children have children of their own who themselves have children of their own.
It's more than this mortal passenger can comprehend...this amazing concept of time and its ever-accelerating passage through infinity.
True, my parents, siblings, and I kept in touch over the years, as we still do today. But whether due to the high cost of flying, the ball and chain of educational and career aspirations, commitments related to spouses and children, new allegiances, scheduling conflicts, and the proverbial curves that life tosses us whenever we get too smug or too comfortable (not necessarily in that order), I only made it back to the Garden Island and my family of origin a couple of times in the span of two generations.
Maybe if I'd made different choices in my young adult years, I'd have had a more affluent lifestyle that would have facilitated and justified regular trips to and from Hawai'i.
But life gives us just one deck of cards, and each choice--wise or foolish--that we make in our game of Solitaire ekes out irreversible consequences. At the lighthouse of 60, I look back over the rugged mountain trail of my life and can easily see the many wrong turns I've taken.
I make no excuses...it is what it is.
Have You Heard From Jan?
Jan, the younger of my two sisters, moved to the Big Island (Hawai'i, the youngest and largest isle of the Hawaiian archipelago) several years ago.
Due to the incredibly high cost of inter-island flights (that, I kid you not, can cost as much as if not more than flights to and from the mainland), the idea of any family reunion involving Jan and her family's participation would bring to the front burner obvious budgetary concerns. This certainly compounds the problem of getting together with loved ones. When my wife, adult children, and I were last able to travel to Kaua'i for a twelve-day vacation in December of 2010, I was saddened by and yet totally understanding of Jan's inability to join us. Likewise, it would have strained our family's budget to have made an island hop to the Big Island.
What I was left with, in regards to connecting with my little sister, was the hope of talking with her over the phone. Believe me, I tried many a time to reach her. I left messages, but I seldom if ever heard back from her. Eventually, I figured that I was either calling a wrong number, or my sister had opted to change cellphone services.
Other family members, including my father--estranged from my mother decades ago and now living with his second wife in Maryland--would constantly ask me during our frequent phone conversations, "Have you heard from Jan?"
"No, Dad," I'd reply each time, "I was just going to ask you the same."
Similar conversations with my other siblings would take place every now and then, usually around holidays and family birthdays. No one had heard from Jan in some time, and attempts to reach her were rarely successful.
I began wondering if my little sister had moved to the same Twilight Zone zip code that had swallowed up Howard Hughes.
Indeed, sister Jan could easily have been a double for the iconic Where's Waldo character.
Fortunately, we would occasionally receive assurances from Mom that Jan was alive and doing well. She was just super busy. And if the rest of us could take an honest inventory of our own lives, we'd realize how absorbed we ourselves had been in the hurry scurry rhythm of our own lives.
- Hawaiian Odysseus: Makalehua--An eBay Adventure in Island Couture and Collectibles
Planning a trip to the islands? Needing to fill those pukas (holes) in your wardrobe with some nifty thrifty choices? Try MAKALEHUA, your last resort before crossing the Pacific.
Playing the Fool!
As an eBay entrepreneur for over a dozen years, I've discovered that the best strategy I could ever employ to maintain not just my enthusiasm and motivation but also my relative success on the online juggernaut is to think outside the box. You can come up with your own pet name for this tactic, but I like to call it playing the fool. When I use that term, I'm clearly defining it in two distinct yet equally powerful ways:
- In referring to myself as a fool, I'm curbing the temptation to fall prey to grandiose delusions. It's a reminder to stay humble, teachable, and open to wonderful possibilities with my customers.
- A lifetime recovering perfectionist, I often trip over my analysis paralysis. That is, if I think long, I think wrong. Playing the fool, then, is my way of going for the gusto. When I played high school football, I had to leave my penchant for academia off the field and get into a beast mode, so to speak. I had to go from being an intellectual to being a savage. Bruce Banner becoming The Hulk. Dr. Jekyll becoming Mr. Hyde. Relative to eBay, then, this meant shedding whatever "NO!" messages were inhibiting my entrepreneurial talents. Through trial and error experimentation, I've reinforced my gut feeling that playing the fool results in more traffic to my eBay listings and thus more sales.
In a strange and somewhat indescribable way, the strategies employed on eBay emerge in my off-eBay life. Perhaps a better way to put this is that they leak into my non-eBay persona. As much as I try to keep the alter ego of the eBay entrepreneur at bay in my real life , elements of it pop up every now and then...especially when other people bring up the subject.
Consider the following true life scenario, for example.
Recently, my wife and adult children met up with family members from Hawai'i at Disneyland. During a short break in the seemingly endless walking and standing in lines at the magnificent theme park, I had occasion to visit with the older of my two sisters, Kathleen.
As I went down the checklist inquiry about family members, the subject of our little sister, Jan, came up.
Kathy, have you heard from Jan?
No. Have you?
You know, she's selling stuff on eBay.
No kidding? Really?
Yeah, she's doing really good.
Oh, wow! What's she selling, Kathy?
Mu'umu'us, aloha shirts, handbags...
Oh, my goodness! I can't believe it!
Yeah, you oughta check her stuff out!
I definitely will!
The proverbial wheels, not unlike the carousel that my grand-nephews were enjoying immensely just about then, were busily turning.
My goal is to connect with my little sister. If Muhammad won't go to the mountain, then the mountain will just have to go to Muhammad.
If I can't make contact with Jan in traditional ways, then, by all means, I'm contacting her via eBay.
Immediately, the inhibitions and negative thoughts swooped into my cerebral passages like vampirous sirens. Maybe Jan just doesn't want to talk to you. Have you thought about that? Maybe you ticked her off. Maybe she just likes it better being physically and emotionally distanced from the family. Hey, you're the one who always wanted to go to the mainland so you could see snow. You abandoned your family of origin. It's your consequential lot to long for and never regain that connection.
I'd heard those voices before. Who are you kidding? You'll never sell those fishing flies on eBay! What? 99 cent auctions? You'll lose a ton of money! You won't last a year on eBay! Selling dirty old pages from discarded magazines and books? Have you lost your mind? Selling a rock for how much money? Hey, dude, there's a room at the state hospital for you!
Had I listened to those voices, I'd still be living hundreds of miles away from home, working a thankless job on a dreadful graveyard shift, baking tens of thousands of bagels at incredibly low wages.
I want more than anything to make connection with my little sister. So much so that I'm willing to think outside the box. I'm determined to risk everything and play the fool.
And how fitting--if incredibly ironic--to make such a pivotal and significant connection on--of all places--eBay!
Further Hubs About Ohana (Family)
- The Octopus Whisperer of Kaua'i
Arguably, the octopus is one of the most intelligent and environmentally-adaptable sea creatures. But they're simply no match for the Kaua'i man aptly referred to as The Octopus Whisperer.
- 5 Dozen Candles
Hawaiian Odysseus recently turned sixty. One of the things he did was to ride a roller coaster for the first time in his life. The jury is out as to whether or not it knocked some wisdom into his head. Read this heartwarming Hub, and then you decide.
- Childhood Memories of the Hawaiian Spiny Lobster
In Hawai'i today, the only legal way to capture lobsters is by hand. Hawaiian Odysseus fondly recalls a time when net fishing for lobsters was a cultural norm, not a prohibited activity.
A Foregone Conclusion Still Worthy of Mention
So, dear reader, if at this point you've already figured out that I successfully connected with my sister, then I bid you a hearty Congratulations!
When I returned home from our vacation, I promptly went to one of my sister's listings and complimented her on her wonderful accomplishments. I rushed to tell Jan how I found her work on eBay to be so inspirational and motivating.
Thus began a flurry of eBay messages to and from each other. In the process, keeping in mind that we were exchanging familial messages on a monitored site, I eventually asked for and received her personal email address. Ah, sweet connection!
The lovely photos that adorn this article are of items that my little sister enthusiastically procures at the various local venues on the Big Island and then resells on eBay. Like me, she passionately enjoys her online entrepreneurial activities--so much so, in fact, that she couldn't bear to call it work. It's simultaneously deeper and yet lighter than that.
It's an engagement in reclaiming that which is lost, giving it new appraisal and worth, and then trading that newly established value on the largest global marketplace, eBay.
In addition, it's become a lifestyle mission for her. When she looks around and takes stock of all the blessings in her life, her beloved family of origin, her husband and children, and the grandchildren who provide her with endless amusement and joy, it's with rejuvenated energy that she steps into her weekends in search of the next exciting yard sale find.
And I who have found my long lost sister...albeit on eBay...am equally blessed for having such a golden opportunity to share in her adventure and be of service to her as both a mentor and a loving older brother.