To tell answer the question as to why I wanted to move to Alaska so bad, I will have to take you back in time.
The year was 1984.
It was the year of the first untethered space walk of the space frontier, if you will, that had yet to be explored.
There was the first trans-Atlantic flight in a helium balloon.
The national average of a gallon of gas was $1.10.
Movies like “Footloose” and Beverly Hills Cop” were hot at the box office, and “When Doves Cry” were being played several times a day over the radio.
I wouldn’t get to see those movies until sometime in the 1990s, but the popular show “Dallas” was something that Grandma was not going to miss with the 3 tv channels that we had available.
Here I was, stuck in the city at 8 years old, being raised by my grandmother. She was a Kentucky farm girl who had been raised in a 2 room (Two rooms – not two bedrooms) farmhouse with her siblings. She, too, was stuck in city life, just trying to make ends meet for us.
Grandma and Grandpa moved to Columbus, Ohio after he retired from the Cincinnati Police Department. The year before I was born, he died, leaving his wife, my grandmother, to fend for herself.
A year later, I came along.
Once I started forming memories, some of the earliest I can remember include walking the halls with Grandma at her job as a security officer and digging in the dirt in our yard. The job she had as a security guard is the same one she had when I was born. She would tell me stories of putting me in the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet as a baby in the guard shack. (Make shift bassinet)
At some point leading up to 1984, she landed a job with the State of Ohio. It was at this job that I went to daycare for a short time period. Then, the day care ended, and I found myself being surrounded by women on an elevator and shuffled over to get under Grandma’s desk when I was not in school.
Don’t ask me how these ladies pulled this off, but never underestimate the willpower of strong willed women, especially when they are working together for the common good.
The time came that I would overhear conversations about how dangerous things were both in our neighborhood and at school. The day also unfortunately came that we would attend my friend’s funeral after he and his stepmother were shot in their home just a few streets over.
Before I knew it, Grandma had me licking stamps and putting them on letters that were going to different Chambers of Commerce across the country. As time went on, she widdled down 5 choices of where we could move to.
One would think that a lot of research was done just with that bit of information, but knowing my Grandmother, the final choice was just ole Marty Robbins himself. She loved both him and the Statler Brothers beyond belief.
Marty Robbins had written a song about San Angelo, Texas. After hearing back from the chamber there, she made plans, and the next thing I knew, we were loading up on a Greyhound bus and heading to West Texas to check things out. (My mother went along as well, but Grandma was and will continue to be the leading lady, because she was.)
Oddly enough, that is where my love for Alaska started. Grandma had me reading real paper books while venturing off to an unknown place out of the city that, even as a child, I hated so very much. I was excited for the adventure away from the concrete jungle.
We made it to Texas, and she loved it.
I loved it.
The view of the West Texas sunsets, even through the window of that Greyhound bus was incredible to me.
The landscapes were simply amazing. You could see as far as the eye could see, and then some.
The air was different, it was clean.
We pulled into San Angelo city limits after being on the road for what seemed like forever to me.
We made it back to Ohio, and she had a game plan. Once Grandma set her mind to something, there was no stopping her. The house went on the market, and we waited in limbo for the next two years for the house to sell.
In 1986 there were many huge events that happened. One I remember vividly was sitting in the classroom watching the space shuttle, the Challenger, come crashing down. Towards the end of that school year, the house would sell, and life as I knew it was about to change.
How in the world she pulled this off, I will never know. By this time, my great grandmother had moved up from Kentucky and moved in with us. She was headed to Texas with us as well.
The packing began, and at some point Grandma decided that the panel weave that was in the chainlink fence was coming with us too. We took turns as to who was the washer, the rinser, the dryer, and the packer.
I will never understand that decision. Neither did the realtor, or the new owners.
Needless to say, there we were, West Texas bound and my fascination for Alaska would only continue to grow from there.
So, why Alaska?
There is a simple answer to that.
I fell in love with Alaska through those real paper books, written by real people and real experiences.
Much like Grandma falling in love with West Texas through the voice of Marty Robbins.