STEPFORD

Few visages of children appear as though destiny is inscribed upon them. We’d all like to believe life is an open book shaped by the choices we make. Still, she had one of those faces: pale, putty-colored, cow-eyed. Her placid gaze was cool, arms hanging alongside slightly bulging sides like sausages. She was pleasant enough in company and thankfully in retrospect, I was never unkind. Still, there was never a compulsion to engage her in conversation for I could never imagine what, if anything, might spring forth from this Sphynx-like apparition.

Girls like her rolled through childhood, surprised if not dismayed by puberty, shocked into adolescence. Their first sexual affair was startling for the sheer animality of it. Outright enjoyment of the body for its own sake might never be theirs, yet they went on accepting what was given or coerced or even forced. Much like the spoon that fed them while young, direction was derived not from the substance and satisfaction of the meal itself so much as the conveyance that brought it to them. The kind of assertiveness necessary to procure or prevent or refine the quality of such things did not occur naturally if at all. And yet I wondered if young women like her discovered more acceptance of life on its own terms than did I, early on.

I often pondered while gazing at her, silent as stone alongside two animated little friends, how life would deliver what she needed. Likely she would cruise through school only to remain in that small community for life, with the same people she’d always known for better or worse. Likely she would see nothing like the vastness and wonder of this wide world, save what television projected onto the blank slate of imagination. Would that, along with babes strung on either ample hip, really prove satisfactory? And who was I to dispute another’s lifestyle?

What images lilted through her childhood fantasies, what future did she envision? Did she delude herself with fairytales, or would the coarse hand of another social pariah be all she might know or experiences of love? I shuddered to think what her home life consisted of, what freedoms she was afforded and at what cost.

Fifty years later arriving upon a similar scene, I am instantly transported back to that small clutch of girlfriends. Another appears on the horizon and yet more assume their place like miniature Stepford wives. If only I knew the fate of the first I once noticed, there might be comfort supplanting this icy grip of uneasiness. Still unsure, I cycle onward into the brilliance of the day.

 

The Shifting Sands of Time

 

I want a boat. My husband agrees, on alternate Saturdays. My youngest daughter thinks I’m crazy. It’s expensive, mom! There’s storage and maintenance! Not to mention the danger of the Alanuihaha – a channel not to be trifled with on the best of days. Yet I so yearn to be on the water in a visceral sort of way; long to motor up the coast to cast eyes back on the verdant-crested rugged shoreline of this, the Big Island.

As a child growing up in the foothills of the San Gabriel mountains during the 1950’s, I exercised a great deal of freedom, especially compared with what children must endure today. Lack of safety in our neighborhood was absolutely a nonissue. I remember walking barefoot to Hamilton Park several blocks away, clad only in my favorite baggy seersucker shorts. That memory, then, must harken back to before I developed breasts, yet I still recall the embarrassment of older boys teasing me for going topless. The day I donned a t-shirt officially drew the curtains on my childhood.

I did, however, recapture that carefree prepubescent audacity when I was allowed, from time to time, to perch on the faded red prow of our Chris-Craft as she parted the waters, both salty and fresh. Leaning back while holding onto the chromed line cleat with my right hand, the thrill of cruising at top speed while dragging my left through the blue of wake proved indescribable. The day my father was apprehended by the Coast Guard for letting us kids ride atop her in this manner marked passage of a different sort. I began understanding curtailment of liberty.

In a life fraught with challenges and changes, a boat somehow seems a justifiable luxury. And yet the wisdom of an adult baby girl rings in my ears: attending to yet one more weighty responsibility may well offset any lasting pleasure derived from an occasional foray into the Pacific. Swimming, on the other hand, is free – and I feel delightfully unencumbered and unafraid in deep water. Perhaps it’s why I’ve postponed the boat thing, lo these seven years. Still, the temptation remains. Am I trying in my own offbeat way to recapture youth? The very thing I deem impossible; even a waste of time? Or is my body, itself mostly water, merely yearning to bask in its own element in these shifting sands of time?