“Old Homes Week”

By , July 10, 2014

The week of Independence Day proved to be “old homes week” for me. As mentioned in the post, Reunions, Michelle and I traveled south, while Aly and her Auntie Beth (my “kid” sister) traveled north. We met in Wrangell.

Squalls cross "Elephant's Nose" on Woronkofski Island across from Wrangell, AK (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

Squalls cross “Elephant’s Nose” on Woronkofski Island across from Wrangell, Alaska (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

Michelle and I took the long way south, riding the ferry from Haines to Wrangell via Sitka. The Sitka passage requires navigating Surgius Narrows, where tide rips make things difficult except at slack high or low tide. That meant a 6 1/2 hour lay over in our last city of residence, Juneau. We arrived after midnight and left in the morning, so we didn’t get off the ferry, but we used to anchor our sailboat, Selkie, in Auke Nu, next to the ferry terminal. We greeted a mist- and nostalgia-shrouded morning in a familiar place, although the angles, both horizontal and vertical, differed from waking up in Selkie’s cozy cabin.

Likewise, we had a couple of hours lay over in Sitka to catch the following slack. I lived there from 1969 to 1974. We know many people there to visit. We had contacted a sweetheart from junior high and high school ahead of time (see Sweetheart Summit in Sitka). She, her husband, and his cousin’s teenage daughter came out for a picnic in the park where the Russians built their first redoubt in the area.

In Wrangell we stayed with a family friend. She had been Beth’s 3rd grade teacher. Her late husband had been one of our father’s best friends, and I had worked for him on his boat and on the house through much of my high school age.

Most of Beth’s classmates, having been annoying little kids back then, were largely unfamiliar to me, but they’re a lively, friendly group of people. I attended all of Beth’s activities with them, while Michelle and Aly attended most of them. I caught up with several of my classmates and one of my all time best friends. We even got talked into judging the entrants in the Independence Day parade!

Only slightly less important than the people, the places were sweet to visit. I’ve always maintained that every Southeast Alaska town has its own special aroma, a taste in the air that is unique to the place. Wrangell now has a fine museum, where, to our surprise, we found a quote from Dad on one of the information plaques. With all the activity in town—street games, logging shows, even human hamster balls (you gotta try that!)—I found my eyes straying upward to the surrounding hills and mountains, to watch the play of rain squalls across a very familiar landscape. In Sitka, after our friends returned home, Michelle and I took a quick hike up a “new” trail to a subalpine muskeg flat, where the local plant life struck a precarious balance between familiarity and exotic, now that we make our home in a more northern environment.

Aly next to museum placard with quote from her grandfather, Rev. Bill Zeiger (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

Aly next to museum placard with quote from her grandfather, Rev. Bill Zeiger (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

Now, we’re back where we belong, and our beloved “Family We” has reunited. Michelle and I need to re-adjust to the sound of footsteps overhead. And, remember how to divide food by three. It’s worth the effort, now that Aly’s back in the old home once again.

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