It's a new year and I'm coming off the high of an incredible trip to Seattle. It was the first time I'd been back to my home state in nearly 22 years and it felt like a homecoming. The evergreen trees, cold winter breeze, and sights of Mt. Rainer opened its arms out to me in a warm welcome. Everything looked completely different with the addition of high rise buildings and developed landscapes, but the feelings were the same. Being surrounded by giant trees and hugged in between the mountain ranges was like an embrace from Mother Nature herself, opening up my eyes to a new year of possibilities, and luck. There are a million reasons why it's taken me so long to go back, but it really felt like time hadn't gone by at all.
As my wife and I were preparing for our trip, purchasing winter jackets and hiking boots, we met an associate from REI who was from Seattle (well technically he was from Lake Stevens but when your from the Pacific Northwest you just say Seattle) and talked about his hometown, something about football, and how he goes back home at least once a year, and now that I've finally gone back, I can see why visiting often is important.
We visited with my sister-friend who I've known since we were in 8th grade in junior high school. We made a visit to the apartment that I used to live in, took some photos in front of our highschool, and we ate dinner at an Italian restaurant that I worked at as a busser when I was fifteen. It was euphoric - being able to drive around and show my wife, who I've been with for almost 19 years, all the places from my childhood and the beauty of the state that I call home. I also did something I never would have expected me to do - I went to my foster mom's house. I didn't call before, I hadn't even been in contact with her for at least 14 years. I just drove to her house. I knew exactly where she lived and my expectation was to show my wife where I grew up. Like, this house is where my childhood lives. It's the place that holds my childhood memories through the good and the bad. And in this spontaneity, she was there. The nameplate was on the front porch where it always was, and the house, why do things seem so much bigger when you're small, was nearly the same. She didn't recognize me due to dementia, but she was welcoming, loving, had the same sense of humour she's always had, and was still smoking cigarettes.
As we walked around and peeked into my old bedroom, the room that was once a toy room where me and the daycare kids spent hours in our imagination, and took naps, I could still feel the love and childhood spirit that lived there. I could still see myself as the happy little girl. And when we went outside, although all the gardens were uprooted and the grass turned to brown, I could still see it when it was in its colourful splendour. There were tall flower beds, vines of vegetables and snap peas that climbed the fence. On the side of the house was Frick and Frack, two big bunnies that would eat greens and vegetables, and it was where I planted sunflowers that grew three times my height and then we baked the sunflower seeds and ate them on the back porch after roasting them in the oven.
The other side of the backyard was divided with a fence that still stood, along with a little basketball court. The swing set and monkey bars were long gone, and the sand was replaced by weeds and overgrowth. But I could still see me running around with the other kids, playing basketball that I was horrendous at but still tried, all the time, and just having fun. Having a childhood. While most of the things were gone, the memories still lived there, the trees that stood before and watched over me were still swaying, the fence that protected me from the outside world was still strong, and the house where I was nurtured and supported, still stood. In the midst of my childhood excitement, I knew there was something else that I needed to do.
My foster dad aka Papa had passed away long ago, but this woman who I referred to as my grandmother, the only grandmother that I know, she no longer remembered me. While I was only with her for a short period of time in her life, for me, those 4 years were the most important for me as a human being. I let her know that it was because of her that I'm a good person. That the years she raised me were the most important years of my life, and that because of her and Papa, I was doing good. And although I have so much more life to go and still so much more to do, I know that she doesn't. With the assistance of a walker, she showed us around. We looked at the pictures on the wall of her kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids. She talked about them, what they were doing, where they lived, and she opened up her photo album to find me. Although she didn't remember me, she still had me in her heart and we looked through the photo albums until my face appeared. I was happy to see my little kid face in her album because I don't have many pictures of myself from childhood, and it validated that I was important in their life too.
She let me keep the pictures and told me that she had the memories and didn't need the photos to remind her. It was as if she was listening to her heart even though her brain didn't remember me, and I could feel that. With all of my heart I let her know how much she and papa meant to me, and how much I loved them both. She said she loved me too. As I walked out her front door, she demanded a hug from me, which was so like her, and I said goodbye.
My entire trip to Washington was special. I was reminded of who I am and how far I've come, and I had an immense feeling of belonging, which I can now see has been missing in my life for a while. I felt like I knew everyone, that everyone was my friend, and that I knew the cities like the back of my hand, even though I used google maps to get around everywhere. Although I call Florida my home now, this trip was an awakening for me that I will continue to uncover, and I will have to make regular trips home to keep me, me.
I'm looking forward to this new year, regardless of what happens amidst a recession and a Covid world, and I'm seeing it with new eyes. I'm renewed and ready to turn 40, which seems like a turning point into adulthood, if that makes any sense. I'm also ready to finish my debut novel which I've been working on for over 7 years, and continue to sit in my purpose as an author. No new year's resolution or goals, just a new sense of identity and purpose. And I wish the same to anyone else who reads this.
Happy New Year!