Staturday nights at Grandma’s

A quick memory … 

** Names have been changed to protect the innocent 😉 **

It’s Sunday morning and I’m getting kicked in the face. Irritatingly, this happens every Sunday morning at Grandma’s.

Saturday night, after stopping by for dinner, my sister – Peggy – and I begged and begged to stay with Grandma for the night. We had been playing with our cousins for the last hour and we just weren’t ready to leave! Grandma looked at Grandpa and laughed. We were always welcome to stay, and our parents knew that. 

After they left I never thought about what they did with this kid-free time … My parents probably went to a bar or simply just went home, I don’t know – I didn’t care … I was at Grandma’s and the six of us had big plans for the evening!

My grandparent’s “wreck room” was perfect for fort building. Well all picked out our corners and got to work immediately. Within a few minutes the room was a maze of blankets only we could navigate. 

My corner was always by the back door behind Grandpa’s chair. It was perfect and I imagined living there the rest of my life. I used my favorite crocheted afghan for the roof. It was mostly black – my favorite color – and had pink and  purple flowers in the center of the motifs. When light shown through the holes it reminded me of stained glass. I could have stayed under that blanket forever. 

The next thing I knew it was bath time. We had to go three at a time. Grandma split us up by age. Peggy and I and our only boy cousin – Ryan – got the first round. This was a normal occurrence at Grandma’s. Peggy and I didn’t have brothers, Ryan was the closest we ever got. 

After bathing, all of the girls took turns getting our hair done in pin curls and rollers – just like Grandma. We would fight over who got to help Grandma with her hair. Ultimately she would make us take turns – even Ryan got a turn. 

After we were all did up, we got root beer floats in old Coke glasses. The perfect ending to the night. Grandma made us take down the fort before tucking us into my aunt’s old brass bed. Three pointing one way and three pointing the other. Somehow I always ended up with Ryan’s feet in my face. 

In the morning those are the feet that would wake me up. Just in time for church. Catholic Mass at the little white church was never my favorite part of Saturday nights at Grandma’s, but I think my love of old buildings started there … A story for another time. 

Snowbird?

I’ve just registered my daughter for the 3rd grade … Sigh. Summer is almost over. It’s been a busy one for sure.

** To make things a little easier, hence forth my daughter shall be “L” and my husband shall be “D” … So it is written … so it is done **

I haven’t written in a while. I have no real excuse, but I did do some traveling! I went home. Alaska in the summer time is the best. I’m too much of a whimp to brave the cold in the winter along with the rest of the tourists (not that I’m calling myself one of those – dirty name calling doesn’t suit me). I admitted to the possibility a few months ago that I can no longer claim to be “from Alaska” any more … Sure I grew up there, but I couldn’t live there again. TOO COLD for this Texas girl … I’m sure I’d get used to it again though.

Funny thing is that D and I actually discussed moving back while we were there. That was my fault – putting the idea in his head. I miss my family and the history I have in Alaska. Not to mention L is an only child (this will not change – keep you opinions to yourself, it’s none of your business) and she has a few cousins up there that I would love her to grow up with. D was stationed in AK while in the Army (other than fate, this is why we met – Not how … how is a whole other story). He likes to say that I was the best thing about Alaska … ok – that’s a little embellishment … he just never wanted to live there again since we left. Then all of a sudden, I put this idea into his head (ultimately he wanted to make me happy whatever the cost) and his wheels started turning. He started dreaming. Oh Lawd when that boy dreams it gets serious. So I pulled the reins a bit … by a bit I mean I squashed the idea.

Not only would leaving Texas mean leaving the job he loves (love is a strong word, but he really enjoys it), chances are he wouldn’t find something in the same field, nor would he be happy with the pay … or the cost of living in Alaska. He knew all of this, so it only took a little reminding and we agreed … no moving to Alaska. At least not until we retire … … Then we can summer there … 😉

Do you remember pen pals?

In elementary school, we would have blocks – I don’t remember what grade we were in – where we would get a list of kids in a school somewhere else in the world and we would write them letters. I thought this was the neatest thing back then.

The last pen pal I had was from Australia. I don’t remember all of the specifics of those letters, but I do remember that every pen pal I ever had asked the same opening questions to us Alaskans. We would have a good chuckle and crinkle our eyebrows … it was the 90’s surely they didn’t actually believe any of this:

Do you live in an igloo?

Do you have a dog sled?

Is there snow all year round?

Is it true the sun never comes up in the winter?

Certain movies of that time frame probably perpetuated those assumptions. North for example. If you don’t know it, it was an Elijah Wood movie from 1994. One of those kid movies where the main character decides he doesn’t like his parents so he looks for new ones. This movie consisted of so many cultural stereotypes it would have never been made today since it would have offended too many people. The family in Alaska of course lived in a huge igloo with a team of dogs that took them everywhere. I was in the 4th grade (I think) when it came out.

As I got older people would and still do ask these questions. I don’t get it. I guess it’s similar to having a famous name and having people ask you if you’re related or something (think Office Space and Micheal Bolton). If you think you’re being funny, you’re not … insert eye roll here.

All that being said, I miss letter writing. I think I might pick that up again. I’d need a pen pal though. I used to write my favorite aunt who lived in Anchorage at the time. I loved getting letters from her … but that was all before email, text messaging, social media, etc. It would be cool to find someone new and random to write to … to the Google! I’ll see if there’s a pen pal matching service or something.

Where to start?

So I lost my job recently. That is probably the best reason I can give for starting to blog again. Not having a job during the summer months means I get to spend a whole lot of time with the kiddo, do yard/house work, read, travel, and sit on my bum. Blogging seems like a better alternative to sitting on my bum … at least for some of the time.

I’m not sure I know where to start this blog. I often start with where my life is currently and go from there, but that often leaves out too much back story and I have to explain a lot … So … Lets start at the very beginning … a very good place to start?

I grew up in Alaska. Depending on where I am in the country, that either elicits surprise, intrigue, or a “that’s nice dear”. I tend to like the intrigued reaction the best. Surprise is eye-roll worthy for me. Since moving away from Alaska, I’ve meet more people with ties to Alaska than I thought possible growing up, so I don’t really understand why it’s so surprising to people any more. Living in Texas and being from Alaska should garner no more surprise than living in Texas and being from Vermont.

Intrigue makes the most sense. Alaska is unlike any other state in the union. Where most state’s populations are pretty even throughout the state, Alaska’s major cities are miles apart. Anchorage and Fairbanks, the 2 largest cities (last I checked), are over 360 miles apart. In between them are dozens of tiny towns and villages with populations smaller than the neighborhood I currently live in. The population of Dallas is more than the population of the entire state by almost a half million people. Think of the ratio of land to people given Alaska has 660,000 square miles of land to Dallas’ 380. These facts, as well as many others, made growing up in Alaska different by far. Intrigue makes sense and opens the door to conversation.

I love Alaska. The Last Frontier will forever be my home. My family has lived in the great state since the Gold Rush in 1898. I’ve had relatives referenced in Alaska history books. I will always have family there. I have no doubt of that. Currently, my parents, 3 sisters, grandmother, a host of aunts and uncles, and dozens of cousins reside in the state with no plans of leaving any time soon. I love them for this. It gives me excuses to visit as often as I can.

Being that we arrived with the Gold Rush, you can rightfully assume that we came for the gold. Until the early 1990’s, my family’s mine was active every summer. I spent the best summers I can remember out there; catching algae in the creek and playing hide and go seek around the cabin with my cousins. If I needed a break, my dad would take me for a ride in the cat; 4/5 year old me called it the cat but it was a CAT front end loader. Dad would let me steer or shift on occasion. I only ever put it in the ditch once … or so my grandma tells me.

I was pretty young, but I still remember the smell of the dirt running through the sluice box, getting yelled at for wondering too close to the CAT while dad was moving dirt, running from bees in the woods, the night we had a bear in camp, eating grape jelly on my pancakes, and sneaking into the closet to eat Grandpa’s candy when no one was looking. Memories I wouldn’t trade for any “normal” childhood that’s for sure. I don’t have many stories to tell since I was barely 6 when price of gold dropped enough that it was more expensive to run the place than we were dredging up, and my memories are hazy at best, but I lived 19 years in that state; there are other stories to tell. No doubt.