How can something I barely remember have a profound influence on my life? I’ve mentioned living in Alaska in other posts of mine, Elmendorf AFB + Pentagon + Chappaqua NY = Ecuadorian Kichwa and Hairdressers and Coincidences. But I haven’t talked about how often it is in the forefront of my mind.
This morning I read a post by Elle Knowles from April 15th, Without Mother There Would Be No Alaska. We are not related, nor do I think that we were in Alaska at the same time. But reading her post made me realize that today is the day to write about a time and place that I think about frequently.
Being born into a military family and being born a month after the Korean War ended and during the Cold War helped define who I am. Being born at Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage in the US Territory of Alaska helped to define me. Why am I drawn to a place about which I have few memories?
When I was about 9 or 10, I asked my mother where I had butterflies flying over my head, suspended from the ceiling. She stared at me. “You remember the butterflies?” she asked incredulously. And I did. I remembered the butterflies and being mesmerized by them. I also remember being surrounded by my father and strangers looking down at me. They looked very strange. Years later, I realized that they probably looked strange to me because they weren’t in uniform. Virtually everyone I saw wore an Air Force uniform. This memory was when I was 6 months old, my mother told me. Which is, of course, impossible. The butterflies were a mobile that hung over the crib in which I slept until I was 2 and we moved from Alaska to Washington, DC. So that is my first memory. And probably, from when I was 2. Which is possible.
I never wore snowshoes, but I did get to keep the family’s snowshoe chair. Pretty cool. I try not to dwell on what type of gut the chair was made from. I spent hours as a child and still spend hours pouring over the many photos my parents and grandparents took. Photos of Inuit celebrations and graves. Photos of the awesome mountains, forests and lakes. Photos of my family in happy times.
What is the pull that Alaska has for me?
Alaska tugs at my soul.