by Amy Groat Scanlan
Maybe it’s the time of year, or the fact that living in Farmington, New Mexico will never feel like home. I’m feeling particularly nostalgic during this holiday season. I’ve never experienced the great Hallmark holiday and I’ve had plenty of Christmases worthy of the Grinch. I had many, many great Christmas seasons in Spokane, replete with Spokane’s wonderful downtown (ah, the Davenport), the awe of neighborhoods glowing colorfully with lights, and the beauty of a white Christmas. Often, this was all we could afford. But they say it is the memories that remain and they do. Fondly. Even though I moved to the Tri-Cities as a young adult, I never failed to visit Spokane during the holidays, just to get a taste of Christmas.
My dad, money or not, always made sure we had the best Christmas we could afford. I appreciated having a dad who, despite his flaws, loved nothing more than Christmas. Poor or not, the man went out of his way to assure that we were infused with the spirit of the season.
Dad was the King of practical presents – hence the snow tires I received the year I moved out on my own. He knew how many times I’d been stuck in the snow. Given that his job included digging Spokane’s buses out of ditches, he vowed I’d ever get stuck again, despite my crappy car choice. Although it wasn’t a piece of fine jewelry or the clothes that I would have long forgotten, those tires were the best gift EVER. I needed them and had no idea then how much I wanted them. Needless to say, I always purchased practical cars from that point on.
I returned the favor to my father one Christmas with a pregnancy test, informing my parents I was pregnant with my son, their first grandchild. While my dad was always a sentimental man and a crier, he was silent that day. He only asked for that pregnancy test, and he proudly show off his grandbaby to his coworkers.
Even though it’s been a very, very long time, living in Spokane during the holidays was the last truly magical Christmas I’ve experienced.
Plenty of people remember their hometown with painful memories. They live with a firm conviction that they are thankful they escaped. I get it. For others, it was filled with an ongoing desire to relive the best days – the glory days – filled days of being the high school hero; football team captain, cheerleader or ASB President. While I was never the typical “hero” I lived in high school limbo. Thankfully, I got good grades, was relatively popular and made many friends. Today, I look back at my high school days with nothing but fondness and friendship.
But, this isn’t a letter about my high school experience. It is a love letter to my hometown, Spokane (for those poor fools, they pronounce it SPO-CANE).
In spite of the hardships I experienced, my hometown is now remembered with only fondness. It was a place where I laughed, cried, grew up, learned a lot of life lessons, made my lifelong friends, and met my first loves.
I moved to Spokane from Boise when I was ten. A horrible age not only to move but just “be”. I arrived in Spokane from safety and where I’d know the love and security of my extended family. Boise was the only home I’d ever known. In my prepubescent brain, Spokane was the place I felt like my parents took me to die. And my parents became people I felt I didn’t know anymore. Experiencing their own challenges, they became angry. They partied too hard, too often. I already had a brother. Yet my parents surprised me with a baby sister. While not quite a welcome surprise, this little girl quickly became my sunshine.
The word difficult doesn’t begin to describe starting sixth grade in a new town and a new school, and very new cultures. I hated Spokane. For the first time in my young life, we were beyond poor – living on food stamps and unemployment benefits. My dad was between jobs more times than I could count. It was also the place my dad became a life-long alcoholic, and the place where my mom adopted the same habit. I guess if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. In my head, I never outgrew the mentality of the “poor girl” whose parents were too embarrassing to introduce to friends. I only invited a very few trusted people to my house. Sadly, my Dad passed in 2005 at just 56. Thankfully, my mom is still with us and doing well.
Despite the family turmoil and the angst just growing up brings, I recognize that Spokane made my heart grow from its despairing death rattle to growing more than three sizes. It wasn’t until middle school that I found my way in school and began to appreciate my beloved hometown. In high school and young adulthood, I grew up. There were way too many memorable and enjoyable wild days – including my fake ID getting taken away at Casa Blanca Restaurant. Back in the day, so to speak, this was simply a right of passage and not unique. I had no business using a long-haired, 5’7” brown eyed girl’s ID when I had short hair, stand 4’11, and have blue eyes. It’s no wonder it was confiscated. I returned the next day and begged to get it back. Thankfully, the owner took pity on me and I left with ID in hand.
While my friends have all moved in different directions since then, we’ve always been each other’s true North. Some have moved back to Spokane; some never left. They are the best women I’ve ever known.
Although, my young adult brain dreamed of moving to other places, (and I did) my midlife brain aches for my hometown. I did grow to love the Tri-Cities because it is where I raised my family. And yes, I made it “work.” But it pales in comparison to my hometown.
I miss it. All of it. I’m jealous of my friends who never left and who can now call Spokane home again. I dream of coming over that hill from the West and viscerally sigh and breathe such a deep relief that I’ve come home. During the Christmas season, I especially miss my dad. But I miss you, too, Spokane and you will forever be my home, Christmas or not.