18 July 2009

Seattle cont...

So there we are, in the middle of and in the suburbs of Seattle, surrounded by the scenes of family, forest-come-ocean, urban life, the coziness and warmth of home and the excited buzz of the city; and it comes to me: I feel more relaxed and "at home" in those few days, in that house (well, mom's apartment), with these people, realizing that I belong in this family--my family, this is my family--than I have in all the years of living here.

This amazes me because up until this very last trip, I have always felt that home is here, where we are. And it is! Don't get me wrong. It is just simply felt more... like home there; EVEN though it's not where I grew up or the house I grew up in or anything even remotely resembling what I knew as a child. But it did. It felt more like home there than I thought could be possible. Perhaps it is because that's how family is supposed to make you feel and that being surrounded by the people I grew up with brought on a fondness that I don't experience here. Maybe it's that I've worked so hard to make that kind of home for my own children in a place that is so astonishingly foreign from my American upbringing that I've equally forgotten or disregarded how I have felt about missing my own family. Maybe it's just the comfort of family that does that.

The point is, it surprised me. I spent a lot of time wailing about my family in my early years, the family I came from--my "old" family--the one that had old dynamics and bad habits and cramped quarters and just all of those old growing pains that came from being so close yet so temperamental. Yet, just as momentary a realization as it is, it is a culmination of time, effort, space, trials, tribulations, even baggage that eventually comes a point where we all--ALL--can let that stuff go and respect each other for their own stories and still be the kids we were with the benefit of being adults. And we've come a long way.

I love my family. Every single one of them. And it doesn't matter what they do, what butthead thing happens between us, I will just always love them, always be proud of them because I know what good people they are, how deep their souls feel, and that our blood truly is thicker than water. And... it just doesn't matter. Unconditional love is unconditional love. It is love without conditions. I just haven't been filled with that kind of uber comforting, warm-fuzziness as I have going with my brothers and their families to the zoo and aquarium, sitting with my nieces and nephews in my mom's house, bonding with my stepdad since my girls were born. Which leaves me to wonder things about myself, my past, what will be, and what should be--even so much as to wonder what needs to be, what we are missing out on, and wondering if there's anything we could do to change the frequency of visits. I'm left to wonder if maybe, just maybe, it's time to go home.

17 July 2009

Seattle Extravaganza!: A Crossroads...

Wow! What an... amazing, wait no... FILLED up trip that was! Twenty-nine hours on a train there and back, plus the nine-hour road trip between home and train station to encompass a full seven days in the Seattle city area... whoa. I'll never do it again.

Not like that anyway.

The girls left here, with me, the last Thursday of June to meet their grandma at the halfway point between here and there to spend a week kickin' their feet up, shedding the school year off their shoulders, and stepping into summer while visiting with Grandma and Grandpa down south. (I always had a Mama Yoya and a Grandma, so I had an automatic differentiation between the two grandmas. I don't know what that has to do with anything right now, other than it's a part of my childhood that I miss and has somehow been missed in my girls, though I take and make every opportunity I can to share this with them; AND somehow it has to do with which grandma they were visiting. Anyhoo....)....

After which we were supposed to 'swing down' that way, pick them up, and make our way past the border and subsequently board the train. Which we did, except it dawns on me far too late that my girls aren't going to see their own beds for close to a month.

But they are excited, and they will get to see both grandmas in less than a month of each other, and what do they care? They're on an adventure. So. We forge ahead the morning after meeting up with the girls, touch base at the hotel the evening before departure, grab some Taco John's (an old standby that stands firmly rooted in the history of our relationship in addition to being just an all-out awesome fast food joint), get the girls settled, and sneak out to the lounge after giddily realizing it was next door to our hotel room. A good, stiff Black Russian for me and a BudLime for my better half were exactly what the doctor ordered after a long day on the road. We contemplate our travel plans, enjoy each other's company, and relax.

The next morning, there is a chilly buzz about the air as we gather our things and leave the hotel. By the time we get to the train station, it is pouring rain outside and when it is time to board, a mousey, gray-haired, disgruntled little car attendant is standing between us in the rain and the shelter of the platform inside the car. We, being experienced travelers and all, feel confident that this is our car. It was a coach car and we bought tickets in coach and from having gone that way the year before, we knew with 91% accuracy that this was our car (or at least the next one down.)

But no, the mousey, gray-haired, disgruntled attendant gives his head a shake, grumbles something, and points to the front of the train. Having little choice but to follow, we take our packs like mules in the rain and trop towards the front of the train. We go almost the length of the train before another car attendant stops us, looks at our tickets and redirects us, quoting something like "past" or "after the dining car."

That seems strange. The berth cars are behind the dining car. We've no business going that far, but there's little choice left. We do an about-face and head directly back towards the dining car, past the willowy, gruff, old car attendant, the dining car, and people who are boarding long after we should have been in our seats. We look up. We're at the berths. There's no more train after that. Now we are soaked. Bags, pillows, coats, pant hems, shoes all soaked; and the rain will not let up. Kyle and I stop and look at each other. We confer quickly through clipped speech and hand gestures, a language that can only be acquired as a seasoned marriage does, ultimately nodding towards the mousey, gray-haired, disgruntled car attendant, knowing full-well we could have got on where we started. We could have got on where the poopoohead attendant was originally standing, in front of the yellow step stool, in front of our car. We could have only gotten mildly dampened. But we are not. We are wet and dripping and drenched to our ankles. We beeline for the original car instead of debating in the rain and, without a word from him, we get on the train, out of the rain.

But now there are no seats left, and my temper is rising behind me like the sun on a hot day while my brain grapples about to prioritize the situation. I'm quite sure the word "F***tard" was used out loud.

And we're soaked, still packed like mules, in a narrow aisle. I start throwing our bags up in various open spaces in the overhead luggage racks, mostly to get us out of the aisle, but very largely to unload my poor girls, who've made the same trek we have to and fro the entire length of the train.

We eyeball two open seats, separate from each other. I anchor down in one, poised upon quick agreement with Kyle to attack and save any further available seats; he takes the girls to the observatory/lounge car. Almost two hours go by before enough detraining passengers leave open seats. Two of them are together. I save those for the girls, excuse myself from the older gentleman I had struck a conversation with, and wobbily careen towards the lounge car to announce my find to my family, who've only had standing room.

Finally, we are in the same car.

The rest of the trip is smooth sailing. Er, training. We ride the rail all the way to and through East and West Glacier, making stops, feeling closer to Seattle, soaking up the landscape changes and scenes from the breath-taking national park. Rolling hills give way to magestic mountains, the view from the train window looking straight down into valleys below, forestry thick and lush. Finally, we roll into Puget Sound, right through downtown Seattle, the magic that only an old city with history conjures, and eventually come to a stop alongide the platform where we detrain and make a giddy, weary way to my stepdad, who is waiting with as much anticipation.

Our vacation is a blur. Nieces and nephews and siblings and cousins and Mom and stepdad all together, all taking turns making entrances back at Mom's place, hugging and laughing and cooing and awww-ing and oh dear god, the baby is so cute. Places to go, things to see, plans to see the zoo, the aquarium (which I've coincidentally seen a commercial for even as far here), a BBQ and friends of the siblings, the Space Needle, and tenderly raucous dinner at The Old Spaghetti Factory (complete with all three brothers' families and the family of one of my youngest brother's friends.) There is time with my brothers and dinners at home and places to shop and salons to tan in and sites to see (Kyle went to see Jimi Hendrix' grave while we girls all splurged on a pedicure, dinner, and a movie.) And of course, Puget Sound, a sweeping backdrop to all life and things Seattle, where Grandpa Mike took the girls to see the docks and shore line, and Mount Rainier, a volcanic mountain visible only through clearing mist but always statedly regal.

(...to be continued...)

14 July 2009

Bubble of fun

I have not quite reached the summation of my trip (to be documented at a later point in time), but I can say that I do not want to leave tomorrow, but I want to be home. I wish... I wish there wasn't so much distance between us. It does make the time we have together that much more special (and I am still revelling in the glow that was cousin/sibling immersion), but it's bittersweet. I love my two families. The one I came from and the one I have made up north. I have never felt that more than I do right now.