What's Tony Thinking

Two Boys


Our two grandsons, Colin (10) and Levi (9) are with us at the cabin these days. Watching the two at play I thought of something I wrote forty years ago “Two Boys and a Manoa Hill.” I was then the pastor at Church of the Crossroads in Honolulu. This was published in the Honolulu Star Bulletin. I thought you might enjoy it.

Two Boys and a Manoa Hill

Given the scarcity of real estate in Honolulu, one of the truly wondrous sights in our lower Manoa neighborhood is a vacant lot. Across the street and slightly uphill from our house sits a 100 foot square preserve of overgrown grass and shrubs, rocks and dirt. To the daily passersby, of which there are many in this university neighborhood, the vacant lot is nothing more than what that designation implies — vacant, empty, a blank space on an otherwise crowded street.

But that’s an adult point of view. To my 7-year-old son and his best friend, this vacant lot is anything but vacant. It is rich with promise, mystery and possibility. They have even given it a name, and so transformed it from mere space (empty nothing awaiting “development”) into a place. They call it “Makaboomba.” (That’s the phonetic spelling as we are dealing here with a purely oral tradition.)

“Makaboomba” has the aroma of adventure. But Makaboomba has more to it than imagined qualities. For more or less at its center stands a hill. This hill reaches possibly six feet above ground level. Geologically speaking, it’s not much. Neither a volcanic outcropping nor sedimentary buildup, it is, excavations reveal, fill dirt and rock. Probably the hill dates to a time two years ago when three homes were built in lots adjoining Makaboomba. Maybe one afternoon when the work was done, a dump truck created the hill on Makaboomba.

If a vacant lot holds forth promise of mystery and adventure, a hill on a vacant lot is the sacred ground in which all these qualities reach their highest concentration. On sunny afternoons my son and his friend lie in ambush against the hillside. At nighttime they stand atop the hill to gaze at the stars. Other days they fight pitched battles on its flanks, calling out desperate commands as they wave stick rifles. 

One day they let an adult, me, on site to assist in carving a cave out of the hill’s side. The hill, part grass-covered, part bare ground, seems to offer unending possibilities for climbing, hiding, surveying one world and getting lost in another.

One afternoon I passed by the edge of the vacant lot as the sun was near setting. The two boys were atop the hill, oblivious to my presence. The sun made it impossible for me to make out their faces. They were dark silhouettes against the sky. Leaping and running they were Indians, soldiers, explorers. But most of all they were free.

As the sun will set, my son will grow up. The hill, once big enough to hide him, will get smaller, and Makaboomba, unless developed, will revert to vacant lot status. But for now this vacant lot and its hill are sacred ground, and these moments of growing up sacred moments.

That son has grown up! He’s 47 now. But what a sweet thing to watch grandchildren race beneath and between the trees here, calling their own desperate commands, as out of the same raw materials — dirt, rocks, sticks and imagination — they create their own Makaboombas.

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