Saturday, July 16, 2011

Irene's Essay: My Best Friend

Irene Clare Tukuafu

Nauvoo, Illinois



In my childhood, we moved a lot with my dad being a salesman. I always felt I had to get to know the other children in my elementary classes right away, because I didn't know when we’d be moving next. I felt I never had a “best friend” until I moved to Bell Street in Sacramento, California when I was about ten. Her name was Pat Carr; her mother was a beautiful Mexican woman and her dad, a haole, was a truck driver.

I admired this family because they loved each other; they were comfortable with their affections, and always kissed when he went off to work, sometimes leaving for weeks at a time.

Pat and I would walk barefooted to the little corner grocery store and get “lick'em aids.” I don't know how we stood those hot black top-roads in the Sacramento heat.

We'd lay in the fields and watch the clouds go by. We'd go in my dad's garden and take a salt shaker from my house and eat yellow pear tomatoes for an hour. One

time I can recall that we wanted a “mother and daddy drink” so we pretended and got some vinegar, salt and water and that was our “drink.”

Pat was a quiet girl and by ourselves she was loyal to me, but when the boys at the bus stop would tease me to make me cry, she just remained quiet. About the age of 12, we joined Job's Daughters. Our Bethel was #74 and we met in the downtown Sacramento Masonic Temple. I so loved going to our Bethel meetings and I joined the choir. We also joined the Drill team and had such snazzy uniforms of purple and white, and wore white boots with purple tassels. We marched in quite a few parades.

When my mother divorced, Mother moved to a little home not far from El

Camino High School and I got to know another wonderful girl my age. Her name was Diana Moo. She must have been half Tahitian as her skin color was darker then mine. I found it odd that she loved reading so much and would tell me that she would take a book even to take her bath; a board across her big four-legged tub. She was so very loving and kind to me, knowing what I was going through and getting used to living only with my mother.

When we lived in Sacramento later, I felt I had no “real” friends at all. I started working at a Woolworths Department Store in the fountain/ice cream section. I needed the money and lied about my age; I said I was 16 when I was only 14.

I went to a different high school every year. All those years, I worked at part-time waitress jobs. I always tried to get on lunch duty so I could get my lunches for free; I figured that if I got a job in a restaurant, I'd always have enough food.

I loved dancing and went to any and every dance I could, no matter what high school I was at! I didn't lack for dancing partners, because I could dance and follow the guy’s lead. I was never a “wall flower,” but still, I lacked a“girl best friend” and knew I was missing out.

When I first went to college at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California, I had some wonderful roommates. I joined the LDS church there, then went off to BYU in Provo. I always worked while attending college and social life for me was, “Where is the next dance?”

Not until I married Tomasi did I find a best girlfriend and that was Kapua Sproat. What a jewel of a friend she was to me. We talked of all sorts of things and shared our children and times of happiness and sorrow. Our husbands were good friends. Kapua and I learned how to sew together, how to can jams and make other foods.

When our family first moved to Tonga in 1967, I missed her so much that I knew I would have a girl and that I’d name her Kapua Fiefia. Kapua means blossom and Fiefia translates from Tongan into happy. I can attribute much of my philosophy of “happiness is a choice” to a very serious conversation I had with Kapua Sproat.

In 1968, when we moved back to Hawaii from Tonga, I'd gotten hurt by something that Tomasi had said to me. I was crying about it to Kapua and then said, “He made me so unhappy about what he said...blah blah blah...”

“Irene, do you think that Tomasi is responsible for YOUR happiness? Do you

think that your mother or your dad are responsible for your happiness? Do you think that God or Christ is responsible for your happiness?” asked Kapua.

Boy that got me thinking. It took more then a few years to think that through. Several years later when I read a book titled “GO FOR IT,” by Irene Kassorla, did that concept really sink in. YOU, AND YOU ALONE are responsible for your happiness. No matter what happens in your life, you can still choose to be happy.

When we lived up in Green Valley in the mid ’70’s and I was a chorister in our Hau’ula Ward, I watched a young woman enter who had blond hair and two darling tow-headed kids following her. I thought as I was leading the music, ‘I'm going to get to know her.’ Her name is Vicki Andrus, and she and her family had moved to Pat's At Punalu’u [a condominium].

Eventually, Tomasi and I invited Vicki and her husband Ralph to stay with us while they looked for a place to buy. They stayed in our “tree house,” a rustic one-room shack built close to our home for a few months, we two women “bumping bellies” in the kitchen making food for our families, as we were both expecting.

I helped her find a place to buy and Vicki and Ralph built a cabin not far out of Green Valley. All the years following, we kept in touch; we called each other and discussed joys or sorrows; kids and siblings; places of jobs.

Our family moved to Ashland, Oregon in 1996 and Vicki and I communicated often on the phone; we spent some holidays together, and even traded children.

When the Andrus’s finally moved from Las Vegas, Nevada to Nauvoo, Illinois, we visited them to help build tables for the restaurant she had purchased.

“Are you still thinking about building a round house like you had been thinking 30 years ago?” Vicki asked me.

“I’ve given up on that dream,” I answered. “But maybe in the next world...”

“Irene, maybe we need to rethink that dream!" Vicki said adamantly.

The rest is history as we worked together and with her building experience, Vicki devoted one whole year of her life building my dream home. What a blessing she's been in my life.

Kapua Sproat has been a blessing in my life. I have other dear friends I made in Hawaii, and Ashland, and in Payson, Utah. I'm grateful always for so many girlfriends.

I think it a foolish saying that “Your true friends you can only count on one hand.” I do NOT believe that. We have many, many more, and meeting up with those

that we knew in the pre-mortal world and here now on earth, we'll meet in the next

world as well. I love them all.

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