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Remembering Laughter in Times of so Much Sadness

Updated on March 14, 2016

Kids See Everything

My Parents Actually Get Along


If you come from a broken home, some of you may understand the severity of the arguments you overhear and remember the screaming, insults, crying, banging and torment that is forever embedded in your long term memory. If this wasn’t your home, consider yourself lucky as it’s not a pretty picture, and long lasts into adulthood even with divorce. Funny thing about hatred though, I can remember the crying, screaming, insults, banging and torment, but never what it was actually about. Even stranger, a positive memory out of so many negative ones stick in long term memory but with greater crisp detail.

My father was in the Navy, and we moved constantly from San Jose, California to Oahu, Hawaii. I remember how dashing he looked in his pressed white uniform, a perfect part down the middle of his blonde hairline, striking blue eyes and a well-trimmed mustache over his pencil thin lips. We lived on the Navy base in Eva, Oahu at the time and we rarely ever saw him as he was overseas. Whenever he came home all he did was drink and yell, drink and yell, and my mother would cry and yell, cry and yell.

Every Wednesday at the University of Hawaii’s Stadium, we’d sometimes shop at the swap meet. Nicole and I fell in love with some cute grass skirts and coconut bra sets. It included leis, and luckily we had opposing favorite colors - mine blue, her’s pink. My mom bought them for us, and she took us home to learn a hula dance: Pearly Shells.

We practiced and practiced until our father got home. We couldn’t wait for him to see what we learned. We sang and danced:


Pearly Shells, from the ocean
Shining in the sun
Covering up the shore
When I see them
My heart tells me that I love you,
More than all the little pearly shells

For every grain of sand upon the beach
I got a kiss for you
And I've got more left over
For each star
That twinkles in the blue
Pearly shells, from the ocean
Shining in the sun
Covering up the shore
When I see them
My heart tells me that I love you
More than all the little pearly shells

For every grain of sand upon the beach
I've got a kiss for you
And I've got more left over
For each star
That twinkles in the blue
Pearly shells, from the ocean
Shining in the sun
Covering up the shore
When I see them
My heart tells me that I love you
More than all the little pearly shells
More than all the little pearly shells


Mom and dad exaggerated their claps and cheers, and of course we felt like Beyonce Knowles rocking the half-time show at the Super Bowl. I’m telling you… we owned our 1,100 square foot house and hula’d like it was 1999 (even though it hadn’t happened yet). Anyways, my dad went to grab a beer and out of habit my mom got upset and headed for the restroom upstairs. My guess she was preparing for another huge fight.

As she disappeared up the flight of stairs our father asked to borrow a grass skirt. My sister happily obliged as he was her world and ultimate hero. Quickly removing the grass skirt and surrendering it, he re-ties it and places it on his head. Putting a finger to his mouth with a yellow tinted smile (years of smoking), he hid below the stairs. Nicole and I giggled and giggled and waited in anticipation for our mom to come downstairs. The moment arrived sooner than we hoped. There was a look of disgust and hatred already plastered on her face, it seemed to get darker with each Naval return. Her dark brown hair seemed flared and black, her eyes gleamed like coals and even her skin seemed to be radiating heat. Mixed between excitement and fear, I waited for what seemed to be taking forever.

“Where did your dad go?” I can remember her tone to this day - malice. It was like all of a sudden her feet gained one hundred pounds as they stomped down the rest of the stairs.

We covered our mouths and giggled, not at her- she was scary. All we could do was shrug in response as we saw our father holding a finger to his mouth. As the older sister, I wasn’t sure how to deal with the mixed tension and light-hearted jokery that was occurring at that moment.

“Figures…” she headed for the kitchen.

We follow. My dad sneaks behind our couch which conveniently hid him from the kitchen’s view. Nimbly and quietly was witness our hilarious father set up for an ‘attack’ and we laugh uncontrollably. She turns and smiles, and she’s about to laugh just because we are (kids are so infectious when it comes to laughter). She comes closer…

“Ooogggeee bbbbooogggeee bbbboooggggeee,” my father leaps up and flails his arms around. A shriek that probably carried through the entire naval base was probably heard that night. Mom hit a tune I haven’t ever heard again.

“Damnit Steve!” she can’t help but crack up. That dark black hair seemed to curl with delight, her eyes still gleamed but with humor and she just seemed plain light. He chased her all around the living room with two girls trailing them laughing till our sides hurt (I believe there was a snort or two - yes, we’re snorters). We hugged and played, it was the best fifteen or so minutes of my life. It was magical! And the only memory that was found in good nature.

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