Do you ever look back at your childhood and think about how each of your experiences helped shape who you are and guided you on the path to where you are at today? I think about this, in where I spent my time as a child, who I spent it with, and the activities that made my childhood one of a kind, and how I wouldn't have changed a thing.
Born in the Midwest but raised an Alaskan girl, I got to spend my childhood in two extreme climates - the interior of Alaska in the winters and the Midwest in the summers. My mom and dad decided to take separate paths when I was very young, which opened up opportunities for me that I have no doubt helped shape who I am today. And life in Columbia, Missouri was so different from life in Fairbanks, Alaska...
I have memories of summer road trips around the Midwest, catching fireflies on warm summer nights, and swimming in the community pool during one particular season. Drinking sweet sun-tea that my step mom would set out in the mornings, and eating warm, freshly picked raspberries from our backyard, topped with heavy cream after a hot Missouri morning of playing outside on our land in the country. Spending summers in Missouri meant I got to experience what a true thunderstorm was (and oh how I love them!!) and what warm rain felt like to play in. We got to see Cardinal baseball games on hot evenings and then drive a few hours home with the car speakers blaring replays and commentary of the game. I got to spend summers with neighborhood friends, and I cherish the memories of visiting both sets of grandparents each summer, where we wouldn't have seen them otherwise.
Somehow, in all the fun I was having in Missouri, I missed the beautiful and warm summers that Alaska had to offer, but experienced moments in the Alaskan winters that were indescribably unique.
The perfect silence and peace within the Alaskan forests (our backyard), the recreation of snowmobiling (snow machining as it’s called there), downhill and cross-country skiing, dog sledding, and ice fishing to name a few. Camping in remote places that took three hours to drive and snowmobile into, deep sea fishing for Halibut and boating down the rivers in the spring, hot-springs camping trips deep in the forest, and white water rafting in Denali. Driving across the frozen river (the "ice bridge") to save a few minutes of drive time getting into town.
The unexpected encounters with caribou (one season during high school), moose, or other wildlife to and from the bus stop were unforgettable. Moose hunting season always fell on my birthday and sometimes those seasons took us to remote locations by plane and other times it took us deep in the snowy woods an hour away from home. The times my parents would stop the car on our gravel road towards home, roll down the windows, letting the frigid air in, to show us the beauty of the Northern Lights swarming the sky above. The long dark hours alternated with blinding brightness of the sun reflecting off the snow and perfectly blue skies at below-zero temperatures in the middle of the day.
So much I look back on from my youth and smile. I mean, not many kids get to help carve the hide off of a moose during hunting season, watch college ice hockey nearly every weekend, go deep sea fishing during spring break, or learn to drive (stick) in the dead of winter at 14 years old while learning to dodge moose at the same time. Or even learn to water ski while lake waters were still 45-50 degrees.
If I'd spent my summers in Alaska, I wouldn't have connected with friends I still have today from my summers in Missouri. We wouldn't have gotten to experience a road trip from Alaska to Missouri in a tiny camper van with five of us packed in, seeing sites along the way. I had incredible opportunities growing up, really amazing education all through school, and dedicated parents who kept us immersed in culture, diversity, challenges, and activities both at home and on vacations.
Everything in life happens on purpose and we get to choose everyday to see the beauty and reason we are on this path. What was unique and beautiful about the years and places of your youth?