This week I finally finished watching the second season of HBO’s Big Little Lies. Thank you, NYU’s student housing, for having HBO Go (so everyone in my family can enjoy it.) But I’m not here to talk about how fabulously grating Meryl Streep was as Mary Louise Wright or how flawless Zoë Kravitz’s skin is.
Big Little Lies is an emotional drama, but it wasn’t the plot, nor the predictable conclusion to the series that brought on the prickly heat of tears as I took in the finale’s last minutes. Willie Nelson and his daughter Paula cover Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” as each character faces their individual futures, and that was what got my tear ducts going. The melody brings back a specific snapshot from deep within the recesses of my memory. It’s a Sunday afternoon. My dad is behind the wheel, humming along to that same song, this time covered by Hawaiian music artist Amy Hanaiali’i. This is standard practice. Every Sunday afternoon we visit my grandma and grandpa, who were living in the same house my dad grew up in at the time. As we coast the roads of Mānoa Valley, Dad plays Kanikapila Sunday, the Hawaiian music program on our local NPR station, or a Hawaiian album of his choice. We are coming home our trip to Papa’s, and because life is a movie, the clouds from the valley are caressing the mountains, a light blanket of mist settling on the trees lining the street. The sun shines through the clouds, breaking cracks of light over the neighborhood. My child brain wondered why someone bothered to make a song like this. Doesn’t the sun usually shine when it drizzles? Oh, now naïve I was! Cut to this Wednesday, where in New York it rained non-stop all day, and there was no break for the sunlight to shatter the clouds and shine through. I walked 20 minutes and had my jeans plastered to my legs, and spent the next four hours with classroom air conditioner numbing my shivering knees. No wonder Papa wasn’t a fan of New York (although to be fair, he was a Hawaii boy studying at Columbia in the 1950s, and couldn’t afford proper heating or a meal that wasn’t eggs and rice.)
My dad gained an appreciation for Hawaiian music during his years spent in school on the East Coast; now, in a similar position, I have also gained that same appreciation for the soundtrack of my childhood. I’m lucky though; where my dad couldn’t enjoy the soothing sounds of the Hawaiian language, I have a Spotify playlist I can press play on when I need a reminder of home.
How lucky I am to grow up where I did. I am close to both sets of grandparents, a very important part of my upbringing. I was raised on the same plot of land my mother grew up on, the same land her mother grew up on, under the shadow of Diamond Head. Fifteen minutes away, Papa pulled my brothers and I around the cul-de-sac in a red Radio Flyer wagon, the same cul-de-sac where he rode on bikes with his kids decades earlier. Where rain comes down on a sunny day, and there’s always a rainbow waiting on the other side.