IMR: 1998: December: 31 — Thursday, 8:37 p.m.
Mom's Place, Mililani Town, Hawaii

Mom's relaxing across from me, reading a Jell-O™ dessert idea book. At her feet, Friskit, trying desperately to relax with the constant crackling and popping outside. Grandma's engrossed in her "Walker: Texas Ranger," and Jen is upstairs, locked away in my old room, trying—probably in vain—to nurse Katie to sleep.

It's Katie's first New Year's Eve, and she's taking it surprisingly well. In fact, save for the louder, booming explosions that echo through the neighborhood, she seems all but oblivious to the mayhem outside.

Still, it has been noisy all day, and Katie has been denied most of her naps. With our plans to ring in 1999 at my family's temple in Waipahu later tonight, it might get a little rough for her. Besides all the chanting and drum beating, there's considerably more pyrotechnic activity in the area around the church. And, as is tradition, Katie will have to be blessed by the minister with a gentle pair of thunks on her shoulders with a prayer book.

Indeed, Katie is heading into a month chock full of ceremony. Her first birthday is less than a month away, to be celebrated with a simple luncheon at the Pagoda. Jen's parents—Katie's yet-unknown other set of grandparents—will be coming all the way from Florida for the occassion. And provided the ongoing negotiations between Jen and I over our daughter's spiritual alignment remain on track, she will be baptized into the Catholic faith during their visit.

Although it's so cliché to say so, it seems like only last week she was born. I just can't get over the fact that Katie is almost one. That one year ago, she wasn't even part of the family yet. And now she's already trying to walk, pretending to talk, and—as of a couple of days ago—started waving at people.

Jen just came downstairs. Katie's passed out over her shoulder, but Jen looks absolutely miserable. Strange that between the two of them, its the New Year's veteran who's having trouble sleeping.

Well, if grandma sticks to her television schedule (and she very rarely doesn't), "Touched By An Angel" will be up soon. That will put Jen into a coma.

Still, it is noisy outside, noisier than its been for years even. Some blasts are shaking the walls, and with all the huge aerials going up, the sky outside is flashing green and red as if World War I was happening all over again.

There's a reason, though, for the high saturation of heavy-duty explosives in town this year.

Historically, the city placed strong restrictions on the purchase and use of fireworks. Not too long ago, the only things you could legally buy were sparklers, pop-pops, and those creepy magic snakes. If you got a permit, though, you could really live it up with a string of 500 red, Chinese firecrackers.

Of course, bigger artillery was always easily obtainable. You could walk up to most any fireworks booth and ask to see the "other stuff." When I was younger, I loved going over to Uncle Al's house, because he always had a wonderful assortment of seasonal weaponry. At first we'd scramble to hide everything and light a couple of sparklers whenever a cop cruised by, but after a few years it got to the point where we'd just wave and smile while firing up a couple of Roman candles.

And I guess because firework regulations were so unenforceable, the city gave up and threw most—if not all—of them out this year.

So, the stuff once hidden under candy store counters in Chinatown turned up on the shelves at Long's Drugs. (And now the stuff in Chinatown probably violate international arms treaties.)

Personally, I'm not sure the city made the right call. The "people are going to buy the big stuff anyway" argument doesn't work for me.

Even though illegal fireworks were easy to get, I still wager the city ordinances kept many curious revelers from picking some up. Now anyone—from the polite accountant to the neighborhood thug—can buy enough explosives to flatten a house.

Indeed, as early as last week, the papers have been a sad chronicle of people blowing their hands off and singeing their eyebrows left and right, many of them reasonable adults who simply decided it would be fun to build a pipe bomb.

I'm dreading the news tomorrow. Thanks to a sudden and unusual afternoon downpour, I don't expect the usual montage of brush fires, but I'll wager more than a few reporters will be doing their stand-ups outside hospitals.

Katie's first Christmas was wonderful. She finally seemed to notice the Christmas tree, and when we put her presents in front of her, she made a valiant effort to tear the wrapping off.

Not surprisingly, she got the lion's share of loot—so much so that we had to go to WalMart the next day to buy a set of shelves to hold everything. She was entranced by Grandma Henderson's gift: a Fisher Price laptop computer with a blinking, flip up screen and a set of beeping, boinging, music-playing buttons. She also liked the toy phone Jen got for her, chosen after Katie developed a knack for interrupting real phone calls by grabbing at our cordless handset and pushing random buttons. There was a Toss 'n' Tickle Me Elmo (also from Jen), a stuffed Winnie the Pooh, a teddy bear, and of course lots of cute clothes.

Her favorite gift, much to Jen's disappointment, seemed to be the toy laptop. She's fortunate enough to have escaped my looks, I guess, but she obviously got the geek gene. The only problem is that it bleeps and boops at the slightest nudge, and by the end of the evening we must have heard "Three Blind Mice" two hundred times.

The singing computer was nothing, though, compared to The Elmo. For a child's toy, it's almost frighteningly bossy. In Elmo's high-pitched whine, it demands, "Tickle Elmo! Toss Elmo! Bounce Elmo!" And even after you've put him down, he still runs through the cycle of commands a few more times for good measure. It wasn't long before Jen and I were going, "Submit to Elmo! Serve Elmo! Elmo is your master!"

The only thing that might challenge The Elmo in the irritating toy category would be Todd's electric chicken. It's a furry, ten-inch-tall sound- and motion-sensitive gadget that his girlfriend, Heidi, got for him. When you set it off, it sings a little polka, flaps its wings and snaps its beak, and punctuates the tune with a cheery "Bwok bwok!" Then it does it all over again, but faster. Then a third time, at an absurd speed. Actually, the first time you witness the routine, its fall-down funny.

By the tenth or eleventh "bwok bwok," though, you want to drop-kick it across the room.

Marriages are full of simple, but important, epiphanies.

Today Jen and I were bickering—playfully, of course—after I caught her drinking Coke out of the bottle (the hefty two-liter kind), even though there were perfectly servicable cups in the kitchen. We started running through the laundry list of odd habits that tie our respective underwear in knots. Eventually I blurted, "You're more of a man than I am."

"Yeah, and you're worse than a woman," was Jen's reply.

We paused for a moment to absorb the simple beauty of that truth.

Jen follows hockey, burps like a pro, shamelessly picks out wedgies and—when she gets a stray hair up her... armpit—does her southern heritage proud in the bitching and moaning department. I, meanwhile, nag and whine constantly, have a serious neurosis when it comes to clean forks and wrinkled shirts, and spend the most time in the bathroom (though I'm usually reading, not primping).

And, of course, she could seriously kick my ass if it came to that.

Perhaps neither of us are shining examples of our gender, and in many ways we couldn't be any more unlike eachother. But that's why I love her so, and that's why we're a great couple.

And it's 10:30 p.m.—time to head out and greet the last year of the century.

© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 31 December 1998 · Last Modified: 1 January 1999