It’s been one, whole year since I walked into the Minneapolis airport and took a one way flight to Fairbanks. When I woke up and glanced at my Time Hop app confirming it had indeed been a year, I took a moment to replay the entire day in my head. It was one of the most life changing days in my life so far, and I can remember all the small details so vividly.
The way my heart raced on the way to the airport, and how I kept trying to make my baby niece in the car seat next to me laugh to avoid the impending goodbye. When I checked my bags and then stood at security with my sister and cried uncontrollably hugging her, her husband, and my niece repeatedly. The wait at the gate. I can’t help but feel a lump in my throat as I write this remembering how my every sense was heightened, aware as I cautiously watched the gate that this would be one of those moments I would never forget. The two little girls I was seated next to; blonde, talkative, and sweet. They told me about camping trips in the mountains with their military dad that they flew to see every summer, and how much I’d love Fairbanks. If only those little girls knew that they comforted me in ways I’ll never be able to thank them for. They distracted me from my sadness by teaching me how to fishtail my braid, playing with the few games I had on my Nook, and making adorable comments on the movie that was playing [Safe Haven].
Then I landed in Fairbanks, and it was over. The fear, the sadness, the goodbyes. The five hour flight hadn’t done it, but the wheels on the ground, and my husband a mere 1,000 feet away did. It was June 17th, eighty some degrees, and sunny as could be at 9:45 PM.
Now a year later, I’m essentially an Alaskan. Minus the driver’s license, which as a military spouse I’m allowed to keep from my home state. I have lost a large portion of my Minnesota accent, according to my Nebraskan friend who made fun of me endlessly for my pronunciation of all long “a” words (think “bag”). I am accustom to driving on roads completely covered in ice at all times (Minnesotans actually plow the roads and use salt to remove ice). I refer to Fairbanks as “in town” and once called the Lower 48 “Outside”. I have fallen in love with mountains and hiking, and even went skiing when it was below zero once this winter (never again). I am the palest I’ve been since age seventeen because I decided the effort to stay tan in Alaska would inevitably give me skin cancer and it is not worth the battle. I shop at Fred’s. My favorite restaurants are little local spots that serve up mouth-watering halibut and/or shrimp. I survived a 9 month winter, and -48 degrees. I’m in love with the midnight sun and will proudly brag about Fairbanks’ perfect (but entirely too short) summers.
I still haven’t shot a moose, voted Republican (ain’t ever happening), drove a gas-guzzling truck, or caught a halibut. The first three I’ll be perfectly content leaving Alaska without having done, but I’ll be earning my deep sea fishing and halibut catching badges in a couple weeks time! I’m still obsessed with big cities and skylines. I miss coffee shops on every corner, and concerts as often as I felt like attending. I miss compact, green, environmentally conscious living (Hello – Fairbanks, please instate a garbage/recycling pick up system ASAP). I miss constant fairs, runs, sporting events, and anything else my heart could imagine in a city.
But for now, I am Alaskan. There’s no use denying it. I’ve lived here a year, and I’m actually getting strangely used to it all.
Oh well. At least our view is better than yours.