You can find more from me at larissamarks.com.
That's it, folks. We've reached the end of 100 Days of Memoirs. Thank you for joining me on the journey.
You can find more from me at larissamarks.com.
When people ask why we moved to Hawaii, my answer depends on who is asking. The simplest, easily accessible response that I give most people involves some version of the following:
While those reasons are not untrue, the more authentic answer is this: God sent us.
God spoke to us, and told us to move our family to Hawaii. He said this to us in several different ways and at several different times, seeming to want us to receive the message loud and clear. The message began with a few prayer times and conversations several years ago. Steve and I both began to have the vague notion that God wanted us to leave our lives in Los Angeles, and settle in Honolulu. But we needed more confirmation than that. Leaving a home, family, friends, and many roots in Los Angeles was not a simple, automatic response. Several trusted people in our lives, wise people who hear from God, began to have visions and dreams about us moving to Hawaii. At some point, we just knew in our guts that this was a clear invitation from God.
Steve and I have made a lifelong commitment - when God speaks, we listen and obey. Our entire marriage and family is built on that guiding principle, and it has shaped our lives in weird, costly, surprising, and radical ways.
So what brought us to Hawaii? Not family, or jobs, or the pretty beaches. God brought us to Hawaii. So here we are.
On my first date with Steve, I tried my best to botch it up before either of us got too invested.
We were ending a great evening of dinner and dessert. He took me to Roscoe’s House of Chicken & Waffles, where we delightfully stuffed ourselves with butter-drenched soul food. If you ever want a good first date, do it over a gigantic platter of crispy fried chicken and syrupy waffles.
While he made me smile at his white-boy humor and eager interest in what I said, I was afraid that he was too straightlaced for me. I was certain that he would be driven away by my past relationship baggage, and run away in search of a nice girl.
At the end of the date, when a “thank you” and “goodnight” would have been appropriate, I instead unloaded a narrative of all my past relationships - bad breakups, emotional dependency, and everything in between. It was part apology, part confession, ending with my saying, “Basically, I’m a mess.” I assumed this was the point when he’d tell me it was nice knowing me.
I was wrong. He stuck in it, offering nothing but love and compassion. Also, surprise, it turns out he had his own share of messy and complicated junk.
That first date was the beginning, becoming a relationship that somehow transcended my previous mishandled relationships. We enjoyed each other’s company, we both made decisions with our guts, we shared a common vision of the purpose of our lives.
On our wedding day we vowed to love and cherish each other for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer. If we keep talking, laughing, working through the mess, reconnecting after a long day, and cultivating our life dreams, I think we’ll end up okay.
The film that made me want to make films was Reservoir Dogs. It was gritty, violent, funny. Gangsters with guns, suits, and aliases - this was the perfect stuff to engross any teenager. I was obsessed with how Quentin Tarantino toyed with timelines, created whatever-the-hell dialogue he felt like, and left you feeling like you got socked in the face.
Later, as a film student at USC (for which I still get an automatic monthly bill of $117.87), I realized that every one of my classmates were influenced by the same films. Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, Rear Window, A Clockwork Orange, The Godfather. We all thought we were destined to be the next George Lucas. You could tell a film student by their dorm room wall covered in a completely unoriginal choice of movie posters. All hail Kubrick, Coppola, and Scorsese.
After a third or fourth viewing of Reservoir Dogs, my high school friends and I got hold of a digital camera, and started shooting our own scenes in our kitchens and backyards. We pilfered neckties and coats from our fathers’ closets, bought the most realistic-looking handguns we could find, and taught ourselves how to make stage blood with corn syrup. The stuff was a pain to wash out of hair. It took us several Saturday afternoons to shoot enough film for a 3-minute segment. We all joined the school film club with the sole purpose of having free use of the editing room. The film club itself was a joke, mostly working on inane projects like getting footage of the football games, or producing morning announcement segments for the school. We spent late afternoons editing our own stuff, while fantasizing about winning awards at the Sundance Film Festival.
On my own, I started writing my own screenplay. It was an absurdist one-act inspired by Samuel Beckett, featuring three characters sitting in a van. Their names were Tom, Dick, and Harry (get it?), and they had all been contracted by a mystery person to pull off a mystery heist. I was big into mystery. I titled my creation “Waiting For the Caged Canary in Room 409.”
When I read my first draft of “Waiting For the Caged Canary” to a few friends, they all gave me blank stares. “Wait,” someone said, “so the characters are waiting the whole time? And that’s it?” I tried to explain the high concept of absurdist theatre, and my vision of bringing the genre to modern film, but it didn’t seem to land with anyone.
I never completed the screenplay. I had so many romanticized visions of it being a perfect blend of humorous, edgy, and insightful, I got stuck. To this day, I have a file titled “Random Ideas,” stuffed with half-baked screenplays, sketches, and stories. One scrap of paper has the note, “Character idea: Dave, the guy who hates everything about his life.” Seriously. In the folder lies the dormant “Waiting for the Caged Canary in Room 409,” my potential seminal work, waiting to get turned into a masterpiece film.
For a long period of my life, I compulsively stole. I don’t know why.
It started with stealing a pen from a classmate in the first grade. It was a multi-color retractable pen, and I saw it sitting in an unguarded cubby hole. Captivated by the object, and seeing a moment of opportunity while the class was on its way out for recess, I swiped it and shoved it into my pocket. My heart raced with excitement, and I felt pleased at being so sneaky, as if there was an inside joke only known to me.
Thus began a life of thievery. My aunt’s headband, magazines from a neighbor’s mailbox, a classmate’s crystal. By age 11, I was deep into it. My brain knew stealing was wrong, but I justified it, figuring at least I wasn’t stealing anything truly valuable. The sheer thrill of it was worth the price of dishonesty. The objects weren’t things I needed, nor did I steal out of anger. I didn’t even care that much about the actual things being stolen - I mostly loved knowing that I could get away with something.
My parents inevitably discovered my stealing. Stolen items had been discovered under my bed mattress. They were confused and concerned, asking me why I had done it. I had no explanation, other than, “I don’t know, I just wanted to do it.” My parents had me return the stolen items and apologize to the owners.
Weeks later, I stole something again. Once again, the disciplinary conversations and reparations. The cycle continued. I was taken to a child psychologist who, besides diagnosing me as a possible kleptomaniac, was unhelpful in providing any meaningful solutions. It probably didn’t help that I pegged him an ass from the moment he shook my hand.
At this point, my parents were at a loss for what to do. Desperate, they took me to meet with our church pastor and his wife. I think they were terrified that they had raised a daughter with an alarming moral compass, and had the need to bring in the big religious guns. The pastor and his wife were friends of the family, and I felt safe with them. I told them as honestly as I could - I liked stealing, but I didn’t want to do it anymore. I was tired of the deception, the broken trust, and the pain on my parents’ faces. My mom’s tears made my heart ache. My pastor’s wife laid her hand gently on my arm. “Larissa, do you want to ask God for help?” I wasn’t feeling particularly hopeful about some invisible deity’s ability to do anything real, but also lacked in other options. “Sure, I can do that,” I said. That was the first night I ever asked God for something that I really wanted and needed.
I still don’t know why I compulsively stole during those years. But I do know that after that night of speaking to God, I never had the desire to steal again.