Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hometown

It wasn’t completely cold out and only looked like rain, so this morning I decided to take the kids to Northwest Trek. Our membership runs out at the end of the month and I figured we may as well get another trip out of it. No one was particularly excited by the idea (which is sort of unusual for these guys) and it took awhile to get out the door.

By the time we arrived they were finally excited to see the animals but we’d taken our time and wouldn’t be able to ride the tram till 12:30 p.m. We had an hour and a half to kill so we headed toward the wooded path and Sierra grabbed my camera. I enjoy not always being responsible for the photography but trusting a 10 year old with a D60 doesn’t feel right. She did fine though; it didn’t end up in the otter pond or anything and she was really proud of the photo she took of the otters mating. That’s my girl!

The tram ride is usually the best part. Almost an hour out in the park and lots of animals to observe. We always try to line up early enough to get into the first car but we missed it this time. Sierra and Kenny took the last two seats in the first car and the rest of us were in the third with a large group of children and a few chaperones. The kids were actually pretty well behaved but there was an older woman with them who could not keep her mouth shut. She spoke loudly (louder than the naturalist in the first car who’s voice we, theoretically, should have been listening to) about Horseshoe Lake. About Doc Hellyer. About bison, elk, moose, and mountain goats. About nettles, skunk cabbage, ocean spray, and foxglove. She would not stop talking. This was especially hard for my oldest who knows these animals and this tour as well as the person driving the tram. It wasn’t all bad; there was a tramful of laughter when the children noticed the bull elk’s dangly bits and pronounced that he was, in fact, a boy. You’ve got to love kids; nothing slips by them!

Dad came home tonight with the news that both Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett were dead. I think I read somewhere (probably a tabloid cover at the grocery store) that she was ill but the Michael Jackson part was surprising to me. I don’t keep up with that sort of thing but I hadn’t heard anything was wrong with him (aside from the long list of non-health related things we’ve mostly all been made aware of over the years). At dinner Ellen Lines (was Kennedy) called to commiserate; we could both relate to a time when people thought he was somewhat normal and his music was cool. We laughed and her sons danced to his songs in the background. It felt, in some ways, like the end of an era.

Tonight was the Prairie Days Parade in downtown Yelm and the older kids and I staked out spots early, breathing in exhaust in exchange for prime candy catching real estate. Grandma showed up with the younger kids closer to the start of the parade and the Martins joined us as well. The kids had fun scrambling for candy tossed high by firemen and princesses while Brooks, Mindy, and I talked, laughed, and editorialized on all that marched by.

I left Yelm in 1988, never to return as a resident. I don’t think I realized at the time that it would work out that way. It’s been 21 years and as I looked around tonight it hit me hard that this wasn't my town. I recognized no one who wasn’t with us. There are people who I’m sure consider themselves long-time Yelm residents who’ve lived here less time than I’ve been away. It’s gone from the one-stoplight town I remember to a bedroom community with all the amenities we so wished for back then. I guess I miss the old place sometimes.

When it was over Sierra and I went to the carnival and bought tickets for the rides. In all my years of living in Yelm I’d never been to the Prairie Days carnival and it was very cool to sit high atop the ferris wheel and take it all in. The lights of the city, the carnival, the water tower, the distant evergreen hills. It’s changed a lot but from up there it was my same small town again. Eventually we left the ferris wheel and as we walked toward the bumper cars someone hit me with a blow-up hammer. I turned to see Cory Henderson smiling at me. Who knows, maybe it still is my same small town.
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