Commentary by Ward Degler
A few miles northwest of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii is the sleepy town of Waipahu. When I lived there, we would drive past the town to spend Sunday afternoons on a beautiful, mostly undiscovered beach.
There, I would drive my battered Renault Dauphine down to the water’s edge, unload the kids, spread the blanket and open the car hood where I kept the ice and beer.
On Mondays, at work, I often spoke in glowing terms about our latest beach adventure with whoever happened to be sitting nearby in the cafeteria. One such person was Joe Amano, a welder at the shipyard. Joe was fourth- or maybe fifth-generation Hawaiian. He couldn’t remember for sure.
One Monday, Joe handed me a piece of paper. On it was an address in Waipahu.
“Tha’s my address,” he said, “Nex’ Sunday you come for a luau with the Amanos. We look for you.”
The next Sunday I drove to the address Joe had given me. He was sitting on the stoop waiting for us.
The house was small and old and all the windows and doors were wide open. An avalanche of kids materialized from somewhere and pulled my kids from the car. “Hey, come, we show you,” they yelled.
On the ground at Joe’s feet was a trough of mortar and a couple of trowels. “Hey,” Joe yelled, “le’s build this wall.”
As I got out of the car, a parade of kids, including my own, came marching around the house. Each carried a large brick, which they deposited next to the mortar.
Hesitantly, I walked over to where Joe stood. He handed me a trowel. “You know how to set brick,” he said, scooping up a trowelful of sloppy mortar.
For the next two hours, Joe, the kids and I built a brick wall next to his front porch. When we finished, he handed each kid a nail and told them to write their names on one of the bricks. Then, he carved my name and his on the top of the wall along with the date.
Then, he ushered all of us around the house to the backyard where tables were overflowing with fruit, roasted chicken, fish, homemade bread and dishes I couldn’t identify. We washed our hands with the garden hose and dug in. Joe spread his bulk out on the lawn with a beer in his hand and smiled.
“Ever body come here help build our house,” he said. “Always been. You come, too, and now you are part of the Amano home. Always will be.”
We went back there several times. We helped build more stuff. Everybody agreed it was better than the beach.