Those who are famous in the public sphere have a need for some kind of buffer between their public and private lives. For Maurice Sendak that buffer was his answering machine. Whenever I called the machine went through its little spiel and then the beep would occur. I would say “Hi Maurice, it’s James” and unless he was traveling he would pick up every time. Each time he did that I felt wealthy beyond any tabulation, rich and privileged that I was allowed into his private life. Now that Maurice has passed away and taken that private life with him, being on this side of the buffer of death feels like an impoverishment.
The dictionary defines “wealth” as the quality of profuse abundance. In my relationship with Maurice I counted myself made wealthy by his friendship. Hawaiʻi too makes me feel enormously rich. Firstly there is the extravagant abundance of all of the flowers, foliage, colors and scents. Secondly there is the richness of its many mingling cultures, each bringing with them food, customs, smells, music, fabric and more. And finally there is the Aloha spirit manifested by Hawaiians which makes one feel immediately as if one is a member of the family finally coming home.
The dictionary defines “impoverishment” as being deprived, indigent. And that is what leaving Hawaiʻi each time has felt like to me… an impoverishment. This is not to say that I find Georgia to be a place bereft of beauty or worth… it’s just that Georgia is not Hawaiʻi. And yet even while living in Georgia I still feel rich with the possibility of finally moving to Hawaiʻi in June of 2019. This thought makes me feel as wealthy as when Maurice would pick up the phone and say, “My dear James.”