It was late August, a comfortable, cool breeze blew in the wind. We were on the Kuskokwim River kneeboarding without a care in the world. I was 12, and nothing else mattered but my puppy Precious, and the adventures I took with my family and friends. I loved summer, I always have. This summer felt different; I knew it would be the best summer ever! It was a fresh start, and the fresh breeze that blew through my curly, black hair seemed to prove it. ‘This has to be the best summer ever!’ I thought as I looked off into the sunset. It was bad for my eyes, but I didn’t know any better. Now I have terrible vision, but that doesn’t matter compared to the beautiful sun’s rays and the cloudless sky that follows.
Summers have always been so important to me. It’s a time to connect with family and friends, and harvest fish and berries for the winter. It’s time taking, but it’s necessary. I personally love it, and that’s the thing I remember most; going out in the wilderness, or to a cabin for a few days with my family. The focus was gathering, and that’s what we did. It was fun, and therapeutic at the same time. It was so calm sometimes that I couldn’t help but run around and act a fool with my cousins. Little did I know that it wouldn’t happen much longer.
I started travelling to my dad’s for summer in high school. I then moved there year round. Everything I knew, behind me, as I flew away from the small village I called my home for the last 14 years of my life. Although I was moving, I knew this place would always be ‘home.’ Akiak, Alaska. Population: 370. Vast lands, chilling nights, and northern lights. I knew I’d miss it.
The landscape was totally different, I loved the greenery Southeast Alaska brought. It was rainy a lot, but I managed. I soon became accustomed to the weather, I loved the rain. I loved everything except the fact that I was going to graduate in a few years. I feared what the future had to bring because I didn’t know what was going to happen.
My new focus was making money, and it wasn’t nearly as fun as going out with my family back home. Don’t get me wrong, I went outing with my dad’s side of the family, but it was too late, I was already preoccupied with my job. It sounds selfish, but my drive for more financial stability rooted from supporting my family, and myself. I guess I grew up too fast. It’s a different time in history, and I often found myself longing to go back to a time when nothing else mattered but family, food, and adventures. No money, no stupid $300 bills to pay, and NO JOB. The only job that mattered would be to take care of my little nieces and nephews. I longed to be 12 again, a girl without a care in the world. Maybe, all along, I just longed to be a child again. Living in this day in age is so complicated. Summer signifies freedom and fun, and maybe I was just longing for a forever summer.
I didn’t know one person that hates summer. People may associate bad memories with summer, but not enough to hate the whole season. But then again, I didn’t know a lot of people. Growing up in a small village has has made me an introvert. Knowing only about 400 people growing up has made me enjoy the quiet remoteness of Alaska. Even in Ketchikan, there was a serene remoteness that I can remember. I remember waking early, maybe 630 and going on our front deck to bask in the fresh cold sunlight. I’d made this a ritual, and I did it whenever I could. Of course I didn’t wake up everyday at 630, but I tried to make it a point to relax on our front porch for a few minutes every day.
Some days, it would be almost absolutely quiet besides cars driving a few blocks away. I lived at the top of a steep hill, and I loved the view, and the privacy. This was a luxury for me in high school, even trudging up the hill everyday wasn’t too bad. I made it into a positive by reassuring myself that it would transform my legs by the end of the year. It sure did, and it got easier and easier when I made the decision to run up and down that hill in the early hours of daylight. I have trouble with consistency, and I didn’t make it a routine. Sometimes my father would see me walking up the hill, and he’d chuckle and make some funny remarks that I can’t remember now. Maybe I should have had some index cards with me because some of his remarks were intellectual and funny. I wish I could remember now, some of the things he’d said while I was huffing and puffing up that hill with a bright pink face.
I’d gotten used to my new family, and my new school. I loved my dad’s easy going personality. He was about 64 when I moved in. I’d imagined how different he was back when he was a young buck. My older half siblings told me he was a lot more strict, but he’d never really grounded me when I was there. We’d talk, and I enjoyed his company. My stepmom was the one that had the rules in the bag. She’d give me chores to do almost everyday. Especially on weekends. I wasn’t a big fan, but I got them done as fast and as best I could so I could enjoy the rest of my day with my friends. She might have thought I favored my father over her, but she’s the one that pushed me to achieve more.
Fast forward to my senior year in high school. The stress I held on my sleeve was growing steadfast. I knew I had to figure out what I was going to do. Most of my friends took gap years, but my stepmom wouldn’t allow it. I applied to Fort Lewis College, and got accepted! I was an excited nervous wreck; kind of like those puppies that finally found a home with nice people. Enjoying it, but having underlying fear of how things would go. We ended up taking a long trip to Canada, and I knew I wouldn’t make it to Colorado on time. I took a gap year and got a job. I was a store clerk for the winter season, and a waitress in the summer. I had a good gig going, but I wasn’t satisfied. I quit my clerk job, and took the waitressing job full time. It was so much fun! I loved going to work, and although it was hard work, meeting people from all over the world made it worth it.
When it boils down to it, jobs are essential, and I can’t go back in time. I’m 19, working a full time job as a teacher’s aide, while taking classes. I’ve moved back to Akiak since then, and I’m enjoying it so far. I’ve got the best of both worlds, and I’ve turned out just fine. Now it’s just me, my family, my job and my classes. Both sides of my family are proud of me, and I couldn’t be happier. I even have a new puppy, her name is Bella. Soon I’ll have the freedom and adventure I crave. In just a few months, I’ll be hopping on a boat, kneeboarding and swimming with my family, just like old times. I can’t wait to re-live a time almost forgotten; a time when I was 12, without a care in the world. That’s what summer is, a time without much care, and without much clothing either! I cannot wait until summer break! My summer will definitely include gathering with my family, and finding a summer job. Jobs aren’t so bad after all; might as well get money while I can!