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.