The Goddess Speaks
Fresh air and sunshine beat luxury
My daughter has a successful medical practice and therefore can afford to live in one of those McMansions that everyone is always poking fun at. It's a beautiful home in Virginia, with marble and wood floors, two staircases, a pool and a lake view.
When we visit we have our own little suite with a private bathroom, and our own little table and chairs in case we should be overcome by the urge to have an in-room tea party (which, to be honest, I often feel would be appropriate for the environment).
While we are there we feel compelled to be on our best behavior. We pick up our shoes (clutter by the front door being unacceptable, of course), keep our windows closed so as not to interfere with the hermetically sealed air-conditioning and heating systems, and eat our meals properly at a table rather than hanging about the kitchen grazing and talking.
I admire the cleanliness, the order and the aesthetics of my daughter's home, but still, the McMansion lifestyle seems to me to be somehow, well, foreign.
In our Hawaiian home, life is messy. Shoes pile up by the front door, dirt blows in all the open windows and guests share closets with beach towels, blankets and bags of stuff waiting for the Big Brother pickup.
Our clothes get dumped in the washer instead of being hauled off to the dry cleaner, and the good china looks nice in the cupboard while I serve huge meals using metal trays from Costco.
Dinner guests in Virginia don't stagger away with foam containers full of soba and somen, and marching lines of lizards would not levitate along the wallpaper in my daughter's pristine home.
What I have learned living here for 20 years is that there's a casual kindliness about the way a Hawaiian household operates. We don't focus on appearances so much, and I can't imagine worrying about things like "window treatments." I don't treat my windows, I open them. I like the bird song and lovely breezes that go along with the dirt, and I have learned to keep my hands off any un-dusted surfaces so the streaks won't show.
I treasure those warm weekend mornings with soft sunshine, birds cooing and the scent of mock orange and plumeria. I don't need 5,000 square feet and a lake view -- I would rather be 10 minutes from the ocean and 10 seconds from the sun.
Indeed, given the McMansion formality, it's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. I rather like the chaos and sensory richness of the Hawaii lifestyle, with its beauty and unpredictability.
My daughter's home comes equipped with an in-ground generator in case of power failure so that they never have to sweat or take cold showers. Here, when the power goes out, people sit in their garages and party hearty with barbecues, sharing stories and ice with neighbors and friends. It works for us.
Cris Rathyen teaches English at Moanalua High School.
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