If we’re very lucky, and if Dad still has money in his wallet, they will say yes. We can’t tell whether Dad’s wallet is empty or not so we ask every day when they pick us up from Kapahulu. Mostly they say no, we have to head straight home to reheat the Tupperware we filled with spaghetti sauce last weekend and pulled out of the freezer this morning. We have to hele to the freeway, afternoon sun beating through our untinted windows as we craw all the way to Temple Valley.
But sometimes, sometimes they give each other a look, a shrug, a tiny nod of the head. Sometimes the answer is an incredible, celebratory yes. We hold our breath when Dad gets to the stop sign at Campbell Avenue. Turning left means we’re going to the freeway. Turning left means the answer is no.
Today he goes straight on Castle Street and Mom doesn’t even tell us to keep it down when we start to dance and cheer in the backseat. He turns right on 6th, which becomes Alohea but we call it Fort Ruger Market Road. From here, of course, they won’t say no but Dad is Dad so we are filled with relief when he pulls into the parking lot instead of driving past and playing all dense when we shriek in complaint.
That’s Dad for you, always acting all da kine like the times we ask him to pour us some juice because we can’t lift the big pitcher filled with Malolo syrup and water by ourselves. He’ll barely tip the pitcher, allowing just a splash of bright orange or red (depending on the sale) into our juice cups.
“Hey!” we bellow as Dad puts the pitcher back into the refrigerator.
“What?” he asks. “Oh, too much? Here, let me put some back.”
“No!” we bellow again. “More!”
“What?” he blinks again. “Put back more? No can. If I put more back, you won’t have any. I thought you said you were thirsty. I came to the kitchen for you to tell me to put it all back?”
“Daaaaaddddyyyyy!” we cackle, stomping our feet. Laughing, he finally fills our cups.
The interaction takes only a moment but it is a moment every single time we ask Dad anything. It is never knowing what lolo thing he’s going to do now because Dad is always doing some kind of lolo thing.
So when we wait with Mom in the car while Dad goes into Fort Ruger Market, we’re actually a little surprised when he comes right back out holding a brown paper bag already blooming with dark brown water spots. He gets into the car as if he were a normal person and passes Mom a rectangular package of Choward’s violet mints for my brother Evans. He doesn’t like boiled peanuts, which is really weird. My brother Evans is really weird.
Eating in the car is usually not allowed, but for this Mom and Dad will make an exception. Celine and I press against the front seat, begging Dad to fill our hands. He slides one still-warm, slippery peanut apiece into our cupped palms then turns back around.
“Make that last,” he says.
“Bob,” Mom warns. We think she’s on our side but really she just doesn’t want to hear us whine. The drive home is long and frustrating enough as it is. We laugh when Dad fills the bowls of our hands with non-Dad servings of boiled peanuts.
“You want, Mama?” Dad asks, peering at Grandma in the rear view mirror.
“No, thank you,” Grandma replies to my great disappointment. On the days she says yes, Dad hands her the entire bag and Celine and I feast like queens for a while until Dad calls for the bag to take its rightful place back up front with him.
We settle into the backseat, sucking sweet peanut water from the soft shells we open with our teeth. Mom fumbles with the Choward’s wrapper while Evans bounces expectantly in the front seat beside her.
“Are we going to go down the hill?” Celine asks.
“Yes!” I chime in. “Are we?”
From here the answer is almost always yes, since we’re already so close to the top of Kīlauea Avenue. Dad sucks the juice from another peanut before starting the car, making a big production about turning on his blinker, checking his mirror. He might be trying to kill us, he’s taking such a long time. Finally he pulls out the parking lot. He makes a couple of turns and all of a sudden before us the road seems to disappear into to the dark blue line between the Pacific and the sky.
We call this hill a roller coaster and to us it is, racing to the bottom in our silver-blue Volaré the closest we’ll ever get to Magic Mountain. We near the very top, where the road flattens so we can take in the entirety of the steep decline ahead. I squirm, waiting for the thrilling, almost sickening drop of my stomach when we crest the first bump and the car, for just a second, really does fly.
We start the decline, wind roaring through the open windows. In the front seat, my brother’s eyes go wide and he presses his tiny preschooler hands into the blue vinyl dashboard until his knuckles go white. He leans forward as if he is going to crawl through the windshield. He takes a gulping breath.
“Oh, shiiiiiiit!” he says as the Volaré screams down the hill. We laugh uproariously. Even Grandma chuckles, scandalized. Dad brakes gently though, sooner than usual, slowing us down so his son doesn’t keep swearing all the way down the empty street we call our roller coaster and he doesn’t get a scolding from both his wife and his mother.
Near the bottom of the hill, the car now going a perfectly respectable speed, we wave as we pass 18th Avenue, to the cemetery nestled at the foot of Diamond Head, where most of our family are laid to rest. I imagine them standing in a long line, waving back, wishing they could ride the roller coaster just one more time. I don’t blame them. I wish we could speed down the hill again and we’re not even finished with this ride yet.
Celine and I finish the last of our peanuts and ask Dad for more. Evans slips another Choward’s between his lips. Mom giggles at Dad and shakes her head, tousling my brother’s golden curls. Dad looks back at them both and smiles. We head to the freeway, towards home, the weekend looming before us like the glinting horizon from the top of Kīlauea.