Sunday, August 17, 2008
Earlier this week, I returned from a near weeklong visit to a place I lived many years ago during the years of first being married (the first time, out of two) and giving birth to my son. The years were 1981-86 and the place was Gustavus, Alaska, then population of 100 in the dead of winter. This past visit was the first time back in 20 years. In 1985 my son, Ben, was born in Gustavus, and he was one of four in that era's "baby group". It was only natural that we four moms established a habit of taking a daily walk with babes in backpacks which included all the sharing that young mothers are known to do. Last Monday, one of those backpack infants (Erin) married Ben's cousin, Travis. By returning to Gustavus, I stepped into a family scene of my past and was warmly welcomed by all. I was also reunited with some great women friends, and was included in the daily dock walk which resembled the walks I previously described, minus the backpacks and babies. Back in my Gustavus days, I worked at the local school as a teacher's aide, and cooked at the local Gustavus Inn during summers. Here's friend and owner JoAnn in her typical welcoming mode.She also has found a voice in her art and I so enjoyed seeing her projects in the fiber and watercolor realms. JoAnn's work is full of color and lightness and whimsy to me.JoAnn was also displaying quilts of another of our backpack kids from days-gone-by, Breena, who now is a recent marine biology graduate AND quilter. This quilt is a bookcase of her favorite childrens' books. It probably should be rotated 90 degrees to the left to look like an actual bookcase with books, but I liked reading the titles; I'll Love You Forever has always been one of my favorites too.Another highlight to the weekend was seeing my former sister-in-law, Donna, who also was starring in the role of "mother of the groom". (She played the part well!) She is the proud mother of 6...her 3 boys (ages 33, 30 and 27) and her 3 girls (ages 4, 5 and 6 or thereabouts). Yes, 4, 5, and 6...it's enough to make me exhausted just thinking about it! Her beautiful girls are recent adoptees from China and last Monday they were special little flower girls to precede the bride and groom. Sweet cousin and ringbearer, Jackson, follows along.I enjoyed traveling around town, seeing how things had changed in the past 20 years. Gustavus has acquired many facilities and businesses that make living there (particularly in the winter) much easier and better for one's mental health than back in the old days. A beautiful new library is certainly a welcomed addition. I knew I couldn't miss visiting this place that now displays what I refer to as my "divorce quilt". I had collected squares from other women, all with the theme of Canadian geese, to piece together and construct borders during those weeks prior to leaving my marriage. There are big chunks of my emotions stitched all over that piece.
Also at the library is a history quilt that was headed up by JoAnn. Local history goes back a more than 100 years, and my son's family is a big part of the lore of this small town. I recognized many of the names of the featured families. The black and white photos added a wonderful vintage feel to the quilt.Reconnecting with friends, attending the wedding, seeing my son, re-experiencing the beauty of the Glacier Bay area, and being welcomed by my former husband and his family were certainly affirming for me. Time travel it was, and five days was perfect. I don't think I'll wait 20 years for my next visit.