2015 will be a decade since I first crammed all my possessions into a Subaru (duh!) and drove west across the U.S. and Canada to Palmer, Alaska, 45 minutes north of Anchorage. I remember watching the George Washington Bridge disappear in the rearview mirror and crying. Like not just a few wistful tears, but real homesick waterworks.
There's no way I would've survived this move and stayed here if it weren't for my "Alaska Family": the friends who feel more like relatives, and of course, my "Alaska Mom."
My Alaska Mom is around the same age as (and kind of like) my real mom in some ways, but she lives 4,500 miles closer. She gave me the job that brought me here: the one I was afraid to take, but wanted to and knew I would. She's a retired trial judge with her own potato farm. I've seen her dogs chase moose across the front deck of her farm house. She has a trampoline she still jumps on.
She's a voracious reader and traveler, and an unbelievable cook who's always baking, canning, smoking, pickling, frying, or marinating something she or someone in her family grew, caught, or shot.
She drives to Anchorage when I travel there for work and takes me for sushi and picks up eczema medicine and toothpaste for me. She knits my kids hats and doll blankets and flies to Juneau to see us. She always sends a birthday card or a package.
She's lived here since the '70s and knows everyone in the state, or at least you can't go anywhere with her and not run into sixteen people she knows. I call her for advice and she talks to me for hours while we're both multitasking our respective domestic chores. She has a husband, four kids, three grandkids, three siblings, a zillion friends and family, and many former law clerks she's stayed close with, so she's a pretty busy woman. But she always has time for me.
I was homesick a lot my first few years here. I missed my friends and family and I really missed my mom. My Alaska Mom gave me a lot of maternal love and comfort without the baggage or complications of that relationship. It's because of her that I came here, and she's a big part of why I stayed. She's part of the reason why whenever my plane lands in Alaska, I know I'm home.