I was in Bellingham, Washington at the end of June, visiting my precious Polar Bear, who has been dealing with some heavy things and just… needed me. So I went.
On day two of my visit she introduced me to a friend of hers and said “This is my friend, Karen. We’ve been best friends since middle school!”
I stared at her for a split second, and then laughed, “Um. No. We didn’t even know each other until high school.”
My family and I had moved back to Washington from Southern California toward the end of my Sophomore year. We spent about nine months in Wenatchee, and then moved further north, to Tonasket.
I was not thrilled about this. Here was this tiny town of less than 1000 people, and a school which boasted 44 students in my class, compared with the 400+ I had come from in California.
I was, frankly, devastated.
I’ve always been very adaptable. Moving is a way of life for me. Meeting new people comes easily. I’m not shy. I’m not timid. I can make almost any place feel like home, at least for awhile. But this was different. I was angry. I missed my friends in California. I rebelled against the move. I didn’t want to meet new people. I didn’t want to be there.
I went to my first day of classes, was mistaken for the Hungarian exchange student who was supposed to be arriving (“Well, you were dressed so strangely. Of course we assumed you were from another country!”) I was bombarded with too many names to remember all at once, and then I spent my lunch break tucked into a bathroom stall, sobbing. Wishing I were anywhere… anywhere else.
The next day, on my way to my secret solace of the bathroom stall, I was stopped by two senior girls, “There you are! We looked for you yesterday but couldn’t find you. Where were you?” I kind of shrugged my shoulders, sighed, and said, “sobbing in the bathroom.”
That was the beginning. This tiny town, decorated with numerous apple orchards, nestled between mountains and cuddled up next to the Okanogan river, just 20 minutes south of Canada; this tiny little close-knit community took me in, claimed me as one of their own, and quickly forgot that I’d not been there all along.
I lived there three years before moving away. I returned for a time a few years later, gave birth to my son in the local hospital, then moved to New Orleans when he was eight months old, and I’ve not been back.
Fast forward about 15 years. Social Networking put me back in touch with my sweet Polar Bear, and from the moment we bumped into each other on MySpace, it’s as though not a moment had passed.
Time is a weird little drifting, curling, swaying, thing… it passes, and it doesn’t. I’ve lived a few different places. I’ve moved around a lot. I’ve met incredible people who love me and appreciate me for the wandering soul I am, who have open arms waiting to hug me when I drift through… I have a tribe. A big, beautiful, amazing, wonderful tribe.
And tonight, as a part of my tribe deals with the dangers of the fires ravaging our state, as loved ones are evacuated, and others still unaccounted for, I lift up my own feeble offerings to whomever is listening. Please… keep them safe.