My Beloved Mother visited Nome for a long weekend, and we celebrated by doing a bunch of activities. It was one of my favorite weekends in Nome. The hosting nudged me into taking full advantage of the many cool things to do, and I got to share with my dear mommy a measure of how rich, exciting, and lucky the last few months have been.
It all started Thursday, at the airport. It was the first time I’d seen my mom in nine months. After hugs and a quick spin around town, we headed back to the volunteer house. Roommates were met, bags were set down, bison burgers were eaten. Beloved Mother saw the KNOM studio on Friday afternoon, met everyone who was there, and listened to me read the weather. After work we were brought out to camp by my friend Marjorie, whose mom and dad hosted us for dinner and a couple rounds of bean bags. With near permanent sunlight these days, it’s become easy to lose track of the time, and so it was far into the “night” by the time Marjorie shepherded us back into town. Esteemed Mother was still a bit jet-legged and retired to her chambers, wide-eyed and pleased to have glimpsed such a cool camp out by the sea. On Saturday morning we drove 30 miles out of town to observe the migratory birds, most of which, it became clear, have already migrated away. But our Sub-Arctic safari started early, as we happened upon the slumbering herd of musk oxen that have been terrorizing Nome and its domesticated pets the last few weeks. Further down the road we saw a vast expanse of swan couples, and some nonchalant Sandhill cranes from a distance, but otherwise there was only the occasional duck flying overhead to distract us from the swarms of mosquitoes that have emerged from their petulant hibernation. We abandoned the birds a bit earlier than we meant to, but winding slowly back into town we stopped off at the Tahbone’s camp again for a cup of coffee and fresh picked greens. After our snack and visiting we trundled back into town so Cherished Mother could catch the Rangers’ second Stanley Cup game. While she watched sports, I gave myself a haircut and trimmed my beard. That evening friends floated over for what was billed as the “Mooses and Mommy’s Party,” but turned out more like a low-key, talkative 3-hour dinner of grilled moose steak and salmon. It was an impressive gathering, less for its size than the caliber of the guests, and I don’t remember a lull in the conversation before diners and Celebrated Matriarch started peeling off home or to bed. Sunday morning Beloved Maminka and I went for a long drive and short hike at Salmon Lake, with Emily playing tour guide. It was chilly with intermittent sprinkles as we hugged the sandy edge of the lake, marveling at the snowed-over mountaintops and lingering remnants of sea ice. We trudged through willows and mud for a while, then turned around to double back and explore the other side of the lake edge. En route, however, we found some alarming tracks on the beach.
“Those are probably old,” I said, trying to believe it. “No they aren’t,” said Emily. Some of the tracks were big and clawed, but others were small (and clawed), which was scarier, because it could mean a mother and her little ursine offspring. A killing team. “Yeah, these weren’t here when we headed out,” Grandest Mommy added. “See how these tracks are right on top of ours? Like they were following us? We would have noticed those heading out.” We made our way back to the car and agreed that, though brief, it had been a successful hike, with no need to extend it any further. Safe inside the truck, we bumped along the road as the sun came out. 20 miles and many handfuls of trail-mix later we pulled in to Banner Creek so Sevgili Annem could meet another set of friends. We sat on a stream-side deck trying not to shiver too visibly in the thin sunshine. Eventually we all conceded and carried the conversation indoors, then finally over into a small palace devoted to crafts like loom-spinning, yarn-gathering, and spells. It was bitter sweet when we finally pulled back on the road, home towards a vegetable soup fortified with leftover moose bones. And today I abandoned Mother of All Mommy’s to go to work, though I don’t think she minded too much. There were souvenir errands, some last places to peek into, and rest-reserves to accrue ahead of all the flying she’s doing as I type this out. It was an excellent visit, but packed. This evening, ahead of her flight out, Mom and I just sat on adjoining couches in the living room reading different back issues of The New Yorker. It was a quiet, comforting reminder that no matter how far I’ve wandered, I’m solidly grounded in where I came from.