After stealing a bickie from the jar in the kitchen cupboard, I made my way through the dining room and into the lounge. I knew where the toys were, they never moved. I delicately leaned over the little glass table and the crocheting tools that sat upon it. I picked up the big cardboard box and manoeuvred myself out from behind the large leather recliners. Even though there was nothing particularly amazing in there, I knew what I was looking for. I rummaged past the dirty blonde walking doll my mother played with as a child, I bypassed the golliwog that as a young child I adored, and I felt the familiar metal rails that I was searching for resting at the bottom of the box.
I remember hearing Gran tinker away in the kitchen, and Pop’s footsteps as he walked past her and made the floor creak in that peculiar way that only lino does. His heavy frame made every pace prominent as he pottered around, footsteps receding as he made his way toward the back room. Even now, I recall the sounds so vividly; the way he let out a gentle groan when perching himself onto his favourite bar stool. Silence only for a moment, before the air was filled with beautiful tones. Bellowing out tunes in his familiar baritone register that brought the house to life.
Sitting on the beige cotton-looped carpet I flicked my wrist back and forth in a monotonous trance as the magnetic red disc rolled seamlessly around the silver rails. Predating mobile phones, that now provide us with hours of entertainment, this was my only refuge before my cousins arrived and we could entertain each other. The gentle whirr of the disc as it slid along the metal was oddly soothing. I felt content as the noise was drowned out by the next rendition of pop’s Blue Moon that came echoing down the hallway.
A few years later I found myself in the same familiar surroundings, only this time, a more sombre environment. As I sat on the concrete slab, back pressed up against the big green gates, I looked back at the abundance of people bonding over shared memories. I felt lost. One of my cousins saw me sitting in the corner of the backyard and made his way over. As he sat down beside me, making a grunt that was far too exaggerated for his age, I felt a familiarity. I’ve always felt a bond to him, a closeness more like that of a big brother than a cousin.
I told him I was worried that I couldn’t remember my Pop like everyone else could. I had no time with him. He spoke in a reassuring way, reminding me that Pop wouldn’t want anyone to feel excluded and that my memories, while rarer, will be that much more precious. He urged me to re-join the people on the patio, but he could sense my hesitation. I stayed seated, rigid, hugging my knees, and avoiding his gaze. I stared down at the grass that splintered up along the side of the pavement as I tried to blink back tears.
The night before a few of us had watched a movie, which held no particular significance to me at the time, until Jamie quoted it back to me. ‘Ohana means family, and family means nobody gets left behind’.