Under the Sun
A reunion and a wreck shed a different light on what was ordinary
THE women seated around the restaurant table were the girls of my youth.
We became friends by nature of neighborhood, age and ethnicity. Some of us had known each other since elementary school, banding with the others in intermediate and high school.
Before, during and after classes, at lunch periods, on weekends and an occasional weeknight, as a whole group or in smaller rings, so much of our lives then looped through each others.
We whirled around trivialities -- fads and crazes, rock 'n' roll, gossip, clothes, crushes on boys -- all magnified to grave importance by the hot lens of growing up. Oh, there were truly substantial matters explored, too, like teaching vs. nursing, having children and morality (at least as we understood it), but adolescent angst aside, the world was lightness.
Tragedy seemed to touch us obliquely, coming close only to people who were "old," the stage of being that juvenility determines to include anyone past our parents' age. Death had nothing to do with us.
Usually disinclined to break routine, I'd been reluctant to join them for dinner on a workday evening. Business and busyness crowded my calendar and an antisocial tendency pushed me toward begging off.
But I went and it was fun. We laughed when most of us pulled out reading glasses to examine the menu in the restaurant's dim, '70s ambiance. We owned up to wrinkles, hearing loss and dyeing gray hair, though no one actually used the term, preferring "coloring" instead.
That merry evening smashed hard against me a few days later with the news about the two accidents near Hauula that killed four young people and injured several more. Other than the bizarre detail that two of them were struck by a car while mourning at the roadside where the first accident took place, the deaths were terribly common.
Though the federal government reported yesterday that the number of deaths and fatal crashes among young drivers declined last year, statistics are indifferent to the sorrow that follows casualties on Kaukonahua Road, on Roosevelt Avenue and alongside Kamehameha Highway.
My old girlfriends and I were the lucky ones. Cars weren't as easily available as they are to teenagers today. The few of us who had driver's licenses got wheels only when dad didn't need the Buick for a couple of hours.
We were the lucky ones whose parents nagged and fussed over us, relentlessly checking who we were with, where we were going and why and when we'd return, and scolded if we were 15 minutes late.
Of course, we didn't see it that way then, but they were looking out for us. Even though they could never protect us completely from the random facets of accidents, sensible behavior was imprinted on us.
Through such grace and good fortune, the girlfriends grew up. Most went to college, later finding jobs that rewarded their intellects as well as their bank accounts. Children came and grandchildren followed.
Their lives are filled with a tender, precious ordinary denied to the girls who died last weekend.
How wonderful it would have been if, like my girlfriends, the Alithias and Summer-Lynns could note crow's feet around their eyes as middle age creases their skin, could face the ache of divorce, go back to college to jump-start a new career, worry about house payments and bills, consider retirement plans and fret about empty nests.
How marvelous it would have been if after 30 years of separation, they could sit in some dusky restaurant, pass glasses of wine and plates of fried calamari, and talk and giggle and talk some more about the days and daze of youth.
has been on the staff of the Star-Bulletin since 1976. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org