It was as not an easy decision to move East. For one, I grew up on the west side of the state, the side of the state where inhabitants hardly acknowledge there is anything worthwhile east of the Cascades except for possibly Chicago and New York. Seriously. Also Monti, my best friend since 6th grade, lived close by as well as my mom and her sisters, my grandmother Bonnie, and extended family. These women have been my core group for as long as I can remember. These are the women that birthdays were celebrated with, the women that gave me advice about college and boyfriends, the women that gathered every Fall to make Black Cake in my mom’s kitchen in preparation for the holidays. These women may be a little cray-cray but they are still my tribe… The roots run deep on the west side.
Since I was my mom’s only, her teeny tiny as she use to call me, when I weighed in at 5#11oz one early June morning, it made this move eastward even more complicated and painful for both of us. But in a way, I often have wondered if it was also a relief for her. Out of necessity, my mom had created an orderly and compartmentalized life. Her new husband never wanted children of his own and he made that known in the ways he interacted or did not interact with me. She always did her best, the best that she knew how, to keep every thing together. I followed her lead. I learned to strive for perfection at all times, to remain quiet and to never rock the boat.
Just as with any situation, there is good and bad. The good translated into a very nice home, nice cars, a lake cabin, gourmet dinners crafted by my mom every night, except Wednesday nights when we went out for Mexican food. Otherwise our week night dinners were complete with place mats, folded cloth napkins, and music to accompany the regional cuisine (not kidding). I also was the kid that got to go to 2 weeks of horse back riding camp, a 6 week summer ballet school at Pacific Northwest Ballet and the majority of my high school years at Annie Wright, an all girls Episcopalian boarding school situated on the cliffs above the Puget Sound south of Seattle. A fairly privileged life by most people’s standards. But what was missing, which sounds so cliché as a step child, is the feeling that I was wanted or that I belonged. I knew my mom “wanted” me but I also knew her marriage made things complicated.
Years later, when my husband worked for my step dad, it became increasingly more difficult for both my mom and I to navigate our relationship. As you can imagine my step dad held the gold, he ruled. When you are a young and dependent on your parents to survive, this framework for living underneath someone else’s domain is acceptable, it is all you know. But as life goes, as you enter adulthood, the task becomes to fly away from the nest and to build your own. Tim and I were not living authentically. We lived on the land that was gifted to us by my step dad, my husband worked for his company… we had to graciously break free. I am sure every one was ready for us to do so including Tim and I; however, I would imagine for my mom, breaking free did not necessitate us moving all the way to Spokane.
She has displayed her displeasure in some pretty hilarious ways over the years. For example, when she comes to visit us and meets new people (my Spokane friends) she will usually ask them how they ended up in Spokane ? As if living in Spokane would never be a chosen destination. She has honestly stated that people who chose to live in Spokane must be genetically “different” because why would you migrate west and land just east of the cascade mountains, as most sophisticated people would feel genetically pulled toward the ocean, which the west side of the state clearly offers. I am serious! She also knowingly changes the names of our landmarks. Comstock park is Compost and she calls Manito Park, Maniteee or Maneeetooo Park. Initially her attitude contributed to my insecurities and made me question my decision to live here; however I have learned to just smile and laugh when ever she comes up with a new nick name for one of our beloved destinations. And to her own surprise, over time she has come to acknowledge and boast of the treasures of the Inland Northwest. She loves the easy access of our airport, les jardins francais at Maniteeee Park, our Episcopal Cathedral, the Rocket Market on 43rd for the organic produce and men in tight bike shorts, and Luna’s wine list and pizza. However, she still despises our long winters as do I.
It was July 2003 that we launched. My mom gave me a long hug good bye, we both tried not to cry. I knew she did not want to let me and her sugar cookies out from underneath her wing… not yet, not ever. And I did not really want to leave her, not yet, not ever. But sometimes we have to do things that we don’t want to, so that we can get to where we need to be. Painful, so painful for me still as I write. With my light blue Passat wagon loaded down with clothes and household goods as well as Amelia, Elle, Bubba our firsts family yellow lab, and June my Persian cat, we slowly rolled out of the driveway as we waved good bye to Dragon Fly Ranch. My mom and Tim stayed behind to finish packing up our home. Tim would be meeting up with us a few days later in Spokane. As I turned the corner toward I-5, I turned on the radio… ironically, Dixie Chicks Wide Open Spaces was being broadcasted. “Turn it up momma!” Amelia shouted from the back. I obliged.
At that time, in my mind, Spokane held the promise of unconditional and uncomplicated love which translated to a pack of cousins for Amelia and Elle, the hope of having sisters to share in the raising of Elle as I did not yet have the courage to go it alone, more sunshine than rain and long snowy white winters, and a sense of belonging to a big loving family. For the first few years, our hopes were realized. Tim’s family welcomed us in, we partook in several magical back yard BBQs with cousins splashing in the pool as well as gourmet holiday dinners at my sister-in-law’s home. But as things go in life, circumstances shift, cousins grow older, and lives take different directions. Our family has not been spared. I would be lying if I did not admit that this has been painful; especially since I am usually having an internal battle with my need to be with my mom and near the water. And as I have written in previous blogs, I know I have high expectations of myself and those around me. This is both my strength and my curse. It is such a delicate dance when you are not blood related but still have a stake in the game. I think mostly what I have learned over the years is that Tim’s challenges with his relationship with his family ( we all have them, no one is immune ) existed way before I arrived into the picture and it is not my place or my job to fix or compensate for HIStory. Additionally, with the extra burdens we have faced in raising Elle, I know that I have not had any extra energy or room in my heart for complicated dynamics. I am tapped out.
Ultimately we all just have to do the best that we can, assume that every one else is doing the best that they can, and take care of our own little family unit… nothing else really matters. My grandma Bonnie has said to me on many occasions “Count your blessings and don’t borrow trouble Dear Girl ” .