Monthly Archives: April 2012

Young Man Went West #40: Meet the Bautistas–Part Two

Note: This note got pretty lengthy, even for me, so to spare you a dauntingly dense field of text to tackle, I split this post into two parts. This is the conclusion of the story that began with #39. – AR

As soon as we arrived at their single-story Kahala house, Mr. Bautista and I got straight to work. One section of the roof needed a layer of white reflective roof coating. We shared one broom-turned-paintbrush, two buckets of coating, and a partially cloudy morning sky. Jenn’s younger brother was on the rooftop, too, but he spent more time enjoying his rare vantage point than being our assistant. I couldn’t blame him; the mix of a young boy’s imagination and great heights is far more interesting than watching older people talk about grad school, writing jobs, history books, and martial arts movies. Actually, I take that last one back, Jenn’s brother came in and out of that martial arts movie conversation.

We reached the bottom of the second bucket before we reached the last corner of the roof. Though there is still some work to be done, Mr. Bautista and I made great advancements that morning. The same can be said of our relationship. And just like a far-fetched analogy, we left the unfinished job behind us and promptly moved on to the next part of our day.

By the time we had finished washing up, lunch was ready. Jenn’s mom prepared char siu, bok choy, and rice. Had I prepared such a lunch on my limited funds in my limited kitchen, I’d have been proud enough to post the whole process on Facebook. I complimented her cooking, but she brushed off my praises. To talented cooks like Jenn’s parents, this was just some random, last-minute, no-thought food. That, or they just thought I was sucking up.

Jenn’s brother, again his attention elsewhere, scarfed down his portion of lunch and retreated to his computer game. He left me and his two parents discussing family histories, a topic at which we arrived after I asked how each of their families found themselves in Hawaii. My plan was to segue that conversation towards a hilarious anecdote about one of my first memories of Hawaii (a story I can relate later if you all so wish), but the ensuing discussion took such a different turn that I forgot about my original intent. Nonetheless, it felt good to get both parents talking at length, and although they were just relating information more than interacting with me, I saw that lunch as a positive step with both of them.

After lunch, Mr. Bautista gave me an old camera lens and taught me how to use it, then we sat down to watch a three-hour Taiwanese film titled Yi Yi. While the slow pace of the film would have tested the attention span of an average moviegoer, I actually–and thankfully!–enjoyed all three hours and tried my hardest to convey as much when we discussed the film afterward. My film studies degree had finally paid off!

Jenn came home from work during the last half hour of the film and after it was finished, the three of us started cooking dinner of steak, salmon, and pasta. Jenn’s mom and brother joined us and eventually everybody had a task in the kitchen. . . myself included. I cut the fish and the vegetables. Everything was perfectly spiced and even though I had no rice to go with my two types of meat, the pasta with fresh, home-made sauce was quite a worthy substitute. This time, the table was quieter, but I think that spoke more of the meal than anything else.

With each event of the day, I felt progressively more comfortable around Jenn’s family.  While I cannot say that I became a part of the family that day, I will say that by the time I we started to eat, I felt like I had finally earned a spot at their dinner table.

Maybe I should have taken a picture of the dinner spread.


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Young Man Went West #39: Meet the Bautistas–Part One

Note: This note got pretty lengthy, even for me, so to spare you a dauntingly dense field of text to tackle, I split this post into two parts. The story will shortly after with #40. – AR

Before last week, I’d never spent quality time with Jenn’s parents. Before last week, I’d only met up with them a handful of times for brief small talk over casual meals. Before last week, that small talk was always awkward.

That’s because, before last week, Jenn’s parents did not know of our plans to move to New York.

Being a more recent college graduate, Jenn was still juggling her post-college life decisions, e.g. teaching abroad, applying to grad school, figuring out what she’d want to study if she were to go to grad school, and so on. Every time an opportunity opened, closed, or altered, she’d also have to figure out the time and manner in which to let her parents know. I, therefore, did not want to be the messenger before she was ready to send the message, so I kept my conversations with her parents short and off-topic.

That is until last week when she finally revealed to them our awesome plan. Overall, it went pretty well. They were fine with her not teaching in Korea, postponing grad school, and moving across the country. They only thing they weren’t sure about was me.

Jenn’s parents didn’t dislike me, they just didn’t know me. How could they? The few times we had met, we both avoided real conversation. Now that the New York plan was out in the open, we could communicate freely. Or so I hoped.

Shortly after Jenn told her parents about New York, they invited me to join them for pizza at a nearby restaurant. Along the way, I practiced my responses to their probable questions about our plans, but the dinner turned out to be the normal stilted talk of before. There was a little discussion about New York, but it came and went with a fleeting speed. Mostly we just chewed food.

I found out afterward from Jenn that her parents just simply didn’t want to interrogate me over dinner, a notion I appreciate but would not have minded. I mean, I was prepped and ready! I had a cache of well-formed reasons, motives, and plans. Instead, all they asked me was if the Times Square Bubba Gump really needed another server.

I guess Jenn’s dad felt as unsatisfied with our pizza dinner as I did, so he had Jenn ask me if I’d like to help him repair his roof. Though Jenn thought it an insulting request, I was ecstatic! I’d be doing manual labor, which I actually like to do. . . on occasion. We’d also be having lunch and discussing photography as well. What’s more, Jenn wasn’t even going to be there; she had to work from nine to four that day. For the first time during my relationship with Jenn, I felt like her family wanted to get to know me. I jumped on the invitation to spend some quality time with them.

Mr. Bautista picked me up around ten in the morning on Sunday. Even though this was the first time I’d seen him without Jenn around, it somehow already felt less awkward than all of our other encounters. It may be because we had something to talk about besides me and my relationship with his daughter. It may be because I felt needed to fill a void his children couldn’t, i.e. walking on rooftops and lugging buckets around. Most likely, though, I probably felt comfortable right away because I knew I had all day to make an impression instead of just a single meal period.

I know that feel, bro.

To be continued. . .

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