Friday, March 11, 2016

Mount Vernon

File:Mount Vernon (WA) High School - Old Main 01.jpg
Photo by Joe Mabel

I always looked for you. 

Every time I returned, I would look for you.
I would look for your 18 year old faces.

I would drive up I-5, pass the Starbird road exit and start looking to the left for the refinery smoke and the islands.  I’d look to the right to see how many people had moved to Conway and hope for a brief glimpse of Mt. Baker.  I would drive past the trumpeter swans and snow geese and wonder when the first tulip bloom would arrive in the fields.  I’d pass Hillcrest Park and remember when the animals lived in those tiny cages. I would wander down the viaduct, past the revetment and the Tri Dee store and think of sandbags and floods.  I’d pass the Mexico Café, rediscover old cravings, and continue on to explore the flat of the west side.

I’d drive pass the high school and wonder….what would I do differently?  How many of you did I miss out on?  Because, you know, I wasn’t so smart back then. I was scared back then. 

I would come down the hill near the high school, pass the store that didn’t care if you were underage and then cruise Riverside on my way to the “new” mall.  I would cross the bridge that eventually fell down, look down at the river below and mention that it looked a little high.   I would roam the stores of that new mall and scan the crowd.  I was sure the stores would be full of people I had gone to school with. 

I was sure I would see you. 

When I didn’t find you I told the husband that you must have all moved away.  I was 22 or 35 or 41 when I looked for you.   I remembered you all frozen in time.  I was searching for your 18 year old faces.

I would leave the mall and say, “Can you believe this traffic?  It wasn’t like this when I lived here.” 

And then came Facebook.  Facebook says we are friends again because we grew up there.  We know people who know people.  And the low self esteem part of me couldn’t be happier about that.

I’ve stalked your photos and none of us look like we are still 18 years old.  I’ve stopped looking for the younger version of you when I visit the mall.   Some of you though, let’s be honest, you had no idea who I was in high school.   I probably knew who you were though.  I was like that.  I knew your name, I knew who you hung out with and I can tell you who you tried to be back then.  I can tell you if you were more likely to hang out down by the tree, smoking whatever you had in your pocket or to debate Mr. Cornelius over philosophy and current events during lunch.   I knew how many votes you got in the “Bulldog” high school newspaper superlative contest.  I knew if you even cared about that kind of thing at all.  

And then 28 years went by and I got a little bit of cancer.  

There you were again. Suddenly. In droves.  In person and through email and snail mail and on Facebook. Was I a hometown spectacle?  Was I the gossip of the year?   I didn’t care. I wasn’t the first.  Lots of people from our class and our high school and town have been sick.  Some have even died.  Many people still need help and support.

Every time, you have showed up.  You have made a difference. I never expected you to be here for me.  I never expected you to care.  But, I am grateful.

I thank you.

I went back to the Mexico Café recently with my dad.  I knew, without a doubt, I was going to order a hamburger taco.  The Mexico Café now advertises it on their menu as “our famous patty taco”.  My daughter just returned from a semester in Mexico and would probably declare it,  “not a real taco”.  

It is however, a great taco.  And I loved it.

It reminds me of your 18 year old faces and the things we share in common--our youth and our hometown.  It reminds me now of your continued kindness.   It reminds me of the journey we’ve all had.  It reminds me of all that is good about growing up where we did.

It reminds me of home.  

Check This Out!

If you ever find yourself wandering north on I-5 in Washington State, passing through Skagit County, and are in need of a nice meal to sustain you until you get to Canada, feel free to stop by the Mexico Cafe.  They have a fantastic taco that will fill you right up.  


Anonymous said...


Unknown said...

I'm typing through tears... Thank you for the memories. I am walking through them now with you... Amidst the insanity of Facebook, I am so happy we can all reconnect... Remember... The good and the bad... The nervous, scared, trying to fit in or find somewhere to belong, youth years...I'm sorry for your cancer and fight.. But so thankful you are willing to share your journey... I'm thankful for your kindness in those high school years... Thankful for you! Sending you prayers and hugs!

calimom said...

I hope more people share this or put it one one of the local Facebook pages. You've made so many of us cry! Good tears!

Annie Simpson said...

Awww, this is such a good blog. I didn't grow up there but I wish I had. Sounds like it was a nice place with nice people. I wish there were more of these kinds of stories instead of the political ones that flood my life right now. Thank you for a much needed change of pace.

Vicki said...

Every word so true. Like Kristi, tears are running down my face.

Unknown said...

I'm still here and see these places daily... I will look and remember a little differently today! Thank you for the happy tears and the memories you pulled up! Thank you for sharing your fight with cancer. All my love and prayers. Did I happen to get any votes? Probly not, I was most likely skipping Mrs. Rassmussin's class or Jake's, sipping coffee at Denny's! Thank you for the trip down memory lane and 9th street ��!!! ��

Unknown said...

you could not have said that any better every thing is so true.....

Unknown said...

I have this memory of who I like to think I was as a 17 year old and an 18 year old. The Mount Vernon me. I showed up when school was just ramping up for a new year, rebellious me in my old resurrected but not restored old beater of a Cadillac with no muffler. Needless to say I entered the scene loudly and proudly. The long haired anti-establishment, girl crazy, weed smoking, re-invention me, not to say I wasn't that way in Salem, Oregon but in Mount Vernon I was determined not to also be the "low self esteem, attention seeker" of my grade school years as well. Like I could escape him right? He was me! He will always be some part of me. Fortunately as I remember me(hopefully correctly since my memory from my High School years and another beyond were mostly erased in a furnace explosion a year and a half after graduation in Seattle where I had escaped too) the picked on geek of my years leading up to my 7th grade year endowed me with a great deal of empathy for other kids plight even as a "stoner". I vaguely remember defending and befriending kids who were picked on and marginalized by other students but still maintaining a kind of neutrality. I was a terrible student back then because I felt it was my duty too having fun to buck back at the rules and expectations of the administration. I missed more school than I attended often just showing up long enough to hook up with some friends to go on adventures to West Beach or some other cool place to enjoy the high. Despite my reckless behaviour I think I was a caring thoughtful gentle person to those around me. I too returned to the old school and the cruise strip years later looking for who I was back then and the people I called friends in my Junior and Senior years. I have had to face the fact's as they have been presented to me according to someone elses personal experience's as well since going onto FaceBook. I would like to make a heartfelt apology to anyone that I may have hurt through my actions or inactions back then. I used to seek feeling whole and loved and even complete through others, namely my girlfriends. I am reminded/told that though I wasn't a cheater or a beater I was rather insensetive with some people by hopping from one girlfriend to the next without much sensitivity, only maintaining the non cheater status by sometimes as little as a day in between relationships. I have since left that kind of self seeking through others. To the ones that were hurt in my fruitless search for completion which I now understand was within me all the time, not in others, I am truly sorry and hope after all of these years you can with my apology put the harm I inadvertly caused to your heart to rest and be happier for it. I hope that everyone's lives I touched are doing well and wish you the best.

Chris Cooke

Tim Hedding said...

Great read Melissa thanks for sharing. Hang tough!

Joyce Barnts said...

Great memory, and could apply to many of small town high schools across America.
Thanks for sharing....