Continuing my read-through edits, today I am posting more of Chapter One from Finding ‘Ohana. If you want to read the chapter in order, start with the opening of Chapter One.
There was a time when I thought I would never want to have children, because I’d always imagined them growing up the way I did. In my mind’s eye, my children prayed earnestly to be able to keep their sinful natures under control. I could see my children viewing the world as though it were created by an angry God, a God who was difficult to please, an extension of myself as a parent. How could I live with myself for bringing new life into a world like that?
Even after I’d devoted myself to Naali, and my own parents had decided I was no longer their daughter, I saw this possible future of myself. I was sure that if I had children, I would become my parents. I was sure that if I had children, they would grow up to hate themselves, as I used to hate myself. And I worried that they would never overcome that hate, as I have finally learned to.
I struggled with this perception until one day when Naali and I were in the baking aisle of the grocery store. I sometimes wonder how my life might have been different if we had not run out of flour that week. I might never have become a mother.
I had just bent down to grab a sack of flour when I heard a baby start crying. Loudly. I turned around to see Naali pick up a container of sprinkles off the floor near the cart the baby was sitting in. She handed it to the crying baby – who I could now see was actually a young toddler – and he stopped crying. He shook the sprinkles a few times, like a rattle.
“There you go. That’s much better, isn’t it?” Naali asked. She was not baby-talking to the toddler, but her voice was soft and soothing. He smiled, his teeth bright with the contrast of his dark skin.
“He likes you,” his mother said, not far away, holding a bag of sugar.
“He’s a sweet kid,” Naali said, and shrugged, as though she comforted crying children all the time.
I put the flour in our cart. Until then, I had always pictured our possible children as though they were born with my parents’ genes – my genes, not Naali’s. I had been thinking of childhoods as though they were all the same. But of course we would not raise children the way my parents had raised Billy and me. If anything, Naali and I would follow Kamea and Ihupani’s parenting methods, as they were much closer than my family was (physically and in spirit). Why had I been worried about my parents’ influence? I had always known we were different, and I certainly knew that Naali and her family were very different from mine. Our children would be happy as I had never been as a kid.
“We should have a baby,” I said.
Naali looked up from the shopping list, eyes wide and mouth slightly ajar. It occurred to me that while I had been having my inner monologue, we had moved halfway across the store, picked up three or four new things off our list, and Naali had been wondering out loud about whether or not we were out of grape jelly at home.
“So,” she said slowly, “we will need a new jar of jelly.” She scribbled grape jelly on the shopping list, grabbed hold of the cart, and pushed it toward the condiment aisle.
“Naali,” I laughed. “I’m serious. We could start our own family. I know you’ve always wanted to. Your parents would be thrilled. And we’re financially comfortable enough now to have kids. We could buy a house with a couple of spare bedrooms, and—”
Naali’s eyes grew wide again and she cut me off abruptly. “A couple of spare bedrooms?” she asked, “How many kids do you think we’ll have?”
I just shrugged. “I hadn’t thought that far ahead.”
Naali looked down at her hands wrapped around the handle of the shopping cart. I could tell she was thinking it through. After a few moments, she looked up and smiled at me.
“Why don’t we just start with one?”
We fell easily into the routine of preparing for the baby to arrive. We started reading to the baby the day we found out Naali was pregnant. We might have sung, but we did not think the baby would want to be born if it heard our tone-deaf attempts at music. And I loved music so much, I could not bear it if our child did not love it too. So for music, we played CDs, and to introduce the baby to our voices, we read.
“‘I’ll love you forever,” Naali had read aloud.
I sat on the floor in front of our couch, resting my head on Naali’s knees and listening to the soft sound of her voice, “‘I’ll like you for always. As long as I’m living—’”
“What is it?” I jumped up, “Are you all right?”
“The baby kicked. Just now.”
I felt a twist of nerves in my stomach. This could be the first time I would have real contact with the baby. Naali never stopped having contact with our child, but all I could do was hope that when I talked to it, the sound actually made it through. My hand flew to Naali’s belly. But there was no movement.
“It just stopped.” Naali saw my face. “But the baby will kick again, you’ll get plenty more chances to feel kicks.” She smiled at me.
I felt cheated. I had been so close to feeling the touch of my baby for the first time. Hoping that my voice might also elicit a kick, I took over reading where Naali left off, now with my hand resting on her belly so I would not miss it again. “‘I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always. As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.’”