Unlike Palin, I Could NOT See Russia From My House

Something you may or may not know about me, galleons:

When I was but a wee lass, I was an Air Force brat. That’s why I was born in California (on the Travis Air Force Base, near Fairfield). From the time I was born until I was four, my family bounced back and forth between Travis AFB and Fort Wainwright (technically an army post, but they have an air division that my dad was assigned to multiple times), which is right outside Fairbanks, Alaska.

My memories of California are hazy, but for some reason, I have several very clear memories of my life in Alaska. And I was reminded of one today. So, I’m going to share with you some of my earliest memories.

We lived in a little house on an exceptionally friendly street. You know the type- they populate movies about small town/suburban life. Everyone knows each other, they all talk to each other and wave as they go by and attend the graduations of neighborhood kids and cry as if they were their own spawn.

Kitty-corner from our house lived Doug and Trudie, who were my parents’ closest friends. Every Thursday, my folks would tote my brother and I over there so the adults could play poker. They laughed and drank and smoked.

We were supposed to nap.

…I was never a napper. I would just lay there, staring and awake, plotting revenge against my parents every time they put me down for a nap.

However, “nap time” at Doug and Trudie’s was exciting. Because they had a water bed. It was warm and squishy and reminded me of the times I had seen the ocean when we were in Florida visiting Grandma Cathie. Despite the fact that my little brother enjoyed naps and got fussy if he was kept awake, I would bounce around on the water bed, make it undulate like mad.

It was super entertaining.

Next door to us lived the Wilson family. They had a son, Brad, who was my age. He was my best friend. We did everything together. We climbed the trees in the park, we built sandcastles in his sandbox, I stole all his hats (yes, even at a young age I stole boys’ hats), he threw snowballs at me when I went outside to ride my trike…

Seriously, bestest fwends.

One time, Mrs. Wilson took Brad, me, and my brother to the park down the street from us. After climbing some trees (I was such a tomboy), Brad and I were playing on one of those giant, force field jungle gyms (that’s what I called them… shut up):

Brad and I were on one side, miming a space mission. We were being pursued by little martians, so we had to climb as fast as we could to the top, where we would be able to defend ourselves by throwing our superpowered nets to trap them (also known as us flinging our scarves at the ground, letting out a wild cry, and then getting yelled at by Brad’s mom because we were going to catch a cold). My brother was toddling around the perimeter, and we may or may not have been imagining him as an alien as well.

Brad’s mother wandered over to another local denizen to chat for a minute. While she was away, Chris tried to climb up to where Brad and I were perched. With the grace of all two-year-olds, he managed to haul himself part way up before succumbing to the bosom of gravity and crashing to the ground… hitting the bars with his face on the way down.

He managed to punch a hole through his lip with his little baby tooth. Brad’s mom freaked out and took us all home. When we got back to my house, my mom freaked out.

Then Chris, already a little shit, told my mom I’d pushed him. I was nowhere near him! Despite my innocence, I was blamed for the whole affair.

This was the moment I learned life was simply not fair.

There was a grocery store at the end of our street, and on warm days, my parents would bundle Chris and I into a large red wagon and tote us down to the store. On the way back, we’d be hemmed in by grocery bags, and my dad would always sing Dem Bones, but he changed the words to Sam Bones.

I should note that it was because of that that I received one of my first (and most persistent) nicknames- Bones.

It was in Fairbanks that I had my fateful encounter with a polar bear at a local zoo. Poorly run facility that it was, the bears were separated from the people by nothing more than a set of steel bars. Usually, they had guards near the cages that kept people back at a safe distance.

But on that day, the guards were MIA. I was but a young, innocent child, wandering in a carefree manner through the zoo. When my parents were preoccupied at another exhibit, I ran from the safety of their presence, hoping to catch a glimpse of the bears (I loved bears… I wanted to ride them). When I got to the cage, I could just see a mound of fur by the cave entrance. Determined, I decided I could squeeze through the bars so I could pet the bears.

I got my head stuck. I proceeded to scream and cry so loud that I actually woke the damn bears up, the largest of which started ambling toward me. A zoo attendant had to keep the bears back while I was removed from the cage.

Not one of my finer moments.

But not all the animals in Alaska were bad. Alaska was where I had my first kitty, Ursula. She joined the family after somehow getting into the vents in our house. I woke up in the middle of the night to see a pair of glowing eyes in my floor vent. I proceeded to scream (this is getting to be a habit, isn’t it?), and my dad came into the room, bleary eyed and irritated. I kept gibbering and pointing at my vent, talking about eyes. He told me I was imagining things and to go back to sleep.

Then, the vent mewed.

Once dad had extricated the emaciated little kitten from the vent, I named her after a Disney character and called her my own. When no one claimed the kitty (and my dad, a cat lover, managed to appeal to my mother’s soft heart by telling her the kitten would just end up euthanised at the local shelter), we officially adopted her.

Ursula, Brad, and I went on many adventures together. So one day, when I heard a loud yowling from the basement, I went to make sure Ursula was okay. I found her tangled in my dad’s fishing gear, bleeding from the fishhooks in her mouth.

Apparently, she’d swallowed some of the fishhooks as well, and we didn’t have the money to pay for her to be fixed up. My favorite uncle, Frank, was visiting, so while my dad took Ursula into the vet, Frank took me out for ice cream.

Many conversations about Heaven (and lots of tears) later, I learned what it meant for something to die.

…Okay, that animal story was less happy than I let on.

Anyway, when we left Fairbanks for the final time, I was crushed. I was leaving my best friend, my home. I ran next door to Brad’s house and yelled up at his window. He poked his head out, tears on his face. His mother had just told him why all our stuff was in that big yellow truck. I was crying and yelling and babbling 90-miles-a-minute.

Then something large hit me in the face.

Now I was yelling because I was in pain. There was blood dripping into my eye. On the ground was the pair of blue-and-yellow plastic binoculars that Brad and I had played with on our expeditions. They were his going-away present to me… which he decided to give to me by chucking it at me from his second-story window. My face covered in blood and tears and snot, I waved my final goodbye to Brad, grabbed the binoculars, and got in the car.

Where my mother just about had a heart attack from the amount of blood on my face.

Anyway, that was Alaska.

Now, dear galleons, I must depart. I have a killer sinus infection, and I’m so drugged up that it’s been hard to type this. It was also hard to drive to work last night, but I managed that without killing myself, so I figured I could handle one measly little blog entry.

…I hope this thing is coherent, that’s all I’m saying.

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