Not born into, not seeded long ago, but carried in like a burr on a dog's coat and rubbed off. First stop, Lowell School, the end of third grade, walking up from the Lazy Lodge Motel on Nevada Avenue, where my mom cleans rooms with Conchita White, the black-haired owner with perfect nails and Judy Garland makeup. Mrs. White is too old to clean for long so pulls out the black and white stills from her nightclub days, and stops time for a few minutes' rest, the dim room lit with sequins. Across town, front-loaders scrape new streets out of prairie and our house comes up from a hole in the ground, a wood staircase to nowhere rising first, then floors and the skeletons of rooms. It's no one's idea of a permanent home, this town at the edge of the Great Plains, pushed up against the Front Range, but the orders were for Colorado Springs. 6,000 feet up, it's dusty, the sun too close, the grass never green as it's supposed to be, what it was in Olive Hill and Vancouver, the deep blue sky and Pikes Peak, our own Mount Fuji, no consolation. We ration water, even when the seedlings are struggling up through peat and clay in our brand new bluegrass lawn. This is how we set down roots, transients in a transient town.
Six military installations, uniforms and salutes on the street, fatigues, someone or everyone going off to war, but somehow we stay put, plant a slip of a Ponderosa pine that's now two stories tall. It's my brother's hometown-he never leaves, marries someone who grew up there, lives now in a house big as a hunting lodge on the other side of Manitou, off Ute Pass where his cell will lose me halfway up. My father, who hated Colorado so, acclimates enough to die there. And where would my mother go? But I get out as soon as I can. I count back now and my lifetime there was only 10 years, the core of me, likely. Hometown, though…. We were on Oahu when my memory switched on, imprinted me with ocean. Among the other Hapa kids, the Japanese moms and plate lunch rice, onigiri snacks, I'm like everybody else, at home in myself, not outsider, no one asking where I was born and meaning something else. Slipped into a banana leaf boat, pushed gently back to the mainland, I never go back to stay. But hometown? It feels like Honolulu.