I was digging through my mother’s fabric closet. It was an entire hallway of a lifetime’s collection of textures, a smorgasbord of swatches. Gossamer, raw silks, ribbons, lace, fur,  she collected and kept scraps and larger pieces from all the costumes she made. Soon after my mother passed, my Dad was hot to get rid of all the stuff my mother acquired as an artist. An IBM engineer for 29 years, he longed for the simplicity he found in equations and mathamatical logistics. But my mother had taken over every single inch of the house with hats and art and projects, and it was a task beyond bearing. Plus, this stuff was great! Sorry, Dad, I have tried, but it’s all too interesting…and could be useful one day.

I did however, aim to organize it. Knowing what we had was half the battle, using it the other half. My mother had at one point or in her head knew where everything was, but as she got more involved with sculpture, let it lapse. My brother and I, raised on the comforts of stuff surrounding us, were the last people, not of sound mind, to tackle this, but what choice did we have?

I had pulled down four shelves of boxes and dumped them out on the floor to sort. The hallway was awash, knee-deep in a sea of color, no shore in sight. My brother came out of his room.  “Um. I’m not dealing with this.” My Dad came over, “What the shit….” You have to have disorder before order, I explained. They shook their heads and left. I was alone. Well, my mother was on my shoulder and I cheerily went through ever piece, rolling up the bigger ones, compiling the swatches, marking each box and then stacking the boxes.

I realized she’d had an order to them. It was impossible to see from the outside. From a critical point of view, it was chaos, but when you got in the brainchild, there was a method. Mostly, they were by fabric type. I kept that as much as I could, but for my purposes to be, I most likely wasn’t going to be costuming a modern adaption of Taming of the Shrew or a surreal, ethereal production of Celebration or Thornton Wilder’s Skin of Our Teeth. I have modest plans still percolating, but surely the fabric would be used and were not going to waste. So far, I’ve made a green crushed velvet case for our beloved Ukrainian chess board, pulled from the remains of my high school Christmas dance dress. I’ve made Halloween costumes, too: For my son, a Smokey da Bear outfit was culled from assembling the fur into a bear outfit and hand-stitched patches. I made myself a fusion Salvador Dalai Lama outfit, complete with a felt melting clock on the epaulette. After seeing Bat for Lashes at Coachella, I was inspired to make a patchwork gossamer rainbow cape from neon swatches I found that had been used for just one of five productions of Godspell the family did.

All the pieces of fabric brought back a memory. I came across the maroon corduroy from an overall dress she’d made for me for a junior high dance. Typically, I’d snap my fingers “I need a dress for a dance tomorrow, Mummy!” She’d comply, and the next day it was ready for showtime – albeit safety pinned and velcroed, with the promise of a quick strip for my friends.

Then, amongst the patterns raw cottons, I pulled it out. It was a muumuu. Full and authentically Hawaiian. It must have been my Aunt Lorene’s, who’d been a nurse in Honolulu in 1941, then couldn’t leave after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. As a child, running around Hawaii were my earliest memories – mostly naked, or in a floral pink bikini, but always covered in fresh-smelling leis. Hawaii. Hmmm. One trip, when I was four, we had to leave early when a dog scratched my face. Blood shot out, covering my face. I contracted staph, rampant on a such a wet tropical island, and we had to go. I still have a small scar, inside a cheek flap, and am a cat lover as a result, wincing at dogs.

Nevertheless, the Hawaiian Islands and this muumuu I now hold have held me my whole life and like a save, ebb and flow, crisscrossing in and out. When I was singing in the chamber choir The Choraliers, having just had my son, we went on tour to sing in Oahu. I’d pumped my breasts like a cow, a suction on each udder, to give my son his meals before I left. In Hawaii, not only was I a heifer in size (my boobs had gotten to 38 H – yes, there is an H – and while my fellow singers were basking in bikini’s on the beach, I was in the hotel with swollen pancakes, pumping and pouring the breast milk down the drain. But we were still in paradise.

Not too long ago, I was hired to write a script in Maui. Hawaii has a way of aloha and making connections. Lo, the film commissioner at the time, we found out, had been my mother’s costume assistant in San Jose! (My mother’s quote: “Shitty seamstress, wonderful woman!”)

While in Maui, I fell in love with my research assistant who was house boy for my Sundance friend, who also turned out to be the infamous Bank Robber of Kahului. (More later) He’d just gotten out of Maui Correctional Center (M triple C is still on my speed dial) when I met him, and in his jail time, made such incredible use of MCCC’s bookmobile library, I was jealous how much reading he’d done. He’d been an art major in Illinois, and had vision and talent, but Hawaii is a very hard place to manage if you’re not rolling in the dough. After some years of living in the cane fields, adopting a meth addiction and roaming Maui’s back fields and sacred caves and pools for years, not to mention the banks, he knew every inch of the island – all the delicious secret local spots, mahalo. He might have been the worst bank robber that ever lived, but he was surely a wealth of knowledge like no other. I still cherish him.

I left the trendier Lahaina and moved upcountry with him to Kula, near the volcano Haleakala for aloha sunrises, where it was foggy in the morning then burned off at the perfect time to hit the beach. Later, I moved in with him into one of his treehouses in Hana where we ran the place with two other now dear-to-my-heart hot chicks and worked an organic farm. Nonsense, farce and comedy ensued. I learned a lot about living in the jungle and their true inhabitants, the Hawaiian native spirits; clothes that never dried and subsequently became moldy; how to slice down bananas and make an endless supply of banana bread; and how to keep your pee clean with the wizzinator. Living on Banana Road with all the characters…well, that is another story … later.

I put on my aunt’s muumuu. The shoulders fit me perfectly. The body, shapeless. Of course, it’s a muumuu. I runwayed for my Dad. Hmmm. Not working. I belted it. Better, he said. Then, I rolled it up and suddenly his face snapped with ideas, “I know! The mini, midi and maxi muumuu! There’s your new entrepreneurial style idea.”

Yes, Dad, here I come Shark Tank. Unlike the Bank Robber of Kahului, I won’t be swimming away from them, though.