Friday, May 30, 2008

(In the 80s)

I grew up in a tiny community in western Alaska in the cool 80s. Back then, it was so carefree, we left our stuff unlocked, didn't have to worry about anybody taking off with our bicycles if we left them anywhere, we all spoke only Yupik to eachother with an occasional kass'aq word, we spent hours yaaryuiqing and playing "bat". We'd play "Go" where the person who was going first said "Go" and you couldn't laugh out loud from that point on, the person who LOL-ed first would go next. If you forgot to say "Go" before you did your bit, it didn't count. One "Go" I remember was Lenna and I in their old house, she was pretending to play the guitar with a broom, strumming the straw with her fingers and turning her face side to side with her eyes closed singing away to whatever we saw on Hee Haw. When she moved her "guitar" out she hit the cord that supplied light to the room and all of the sudden blackness, Lenna soundless in the middle of her song. We laughed till our tummies hurt, gasping for air I imagine, and probably peed in our pants.

Summers were long and we enjoyed "fishing" in the old dried out lake that had little rivelets running through, using old cans with holes cut on the bottom, and we'd only go after Sunday school for some reason. Our fathers would be out of town fishing and most 20 somethings and older away to work at canneries in Naknek. So the village would be just mothers and children, and we loved those days.

Fall brought mouse food season time. We'd go out to the tundra and feel with our feet for springy parts of the tundra for caches of mouse food. Tear open a piece of moss to find roots a mouse had collected away for the long winter. I'd feel bad for the poor mouse who'd done all that work just to have somebody come around and steal it away, (When I found a cache, I wouldn't take the whole thing and leave some there for the poor mouse.) Lenna had told me when she had went with her aunt Lena, she went to "pakik" a cache and the mouse was in there and popped out!

Winters were long and cold but didn't keep us out. We'd love it after a big snow storm, the big berms of snow to slide down on. We'd build snow tunnels, with the help of the older ones and bring out candles from home to light the long elaborate crawl ways. There was one cool tunnel that I remember where you had to jump in from above and slide down to the lower areas and crawl your way through.

Spring was a new beginning and very refreshing. We'd all go down to the Qukaqllik river to see the ice drift out. As soon as it was out, boats would be zooming past on the cold murky river. We'd be out hunting for eggs of all kinds of shore birds and men in the ocean hunting for seal and ocean birds. You'd wish to be lucky enough to find the bigger eggs. My brother Thomas once found a nest of swan eggs and the shells were thick enough for him to put an egg on each of his back pockets of his jeans while carrying the rest. My mom burst out laughing when he dug out eggs from his back pockets, and asked "They didn't break?"

I wouldn't trade the days of my childhood for anything. All the fond memories, the fun times are irreplaceable. Who else but me have these memories.... Kipnuk is my home, on a bend on the Qukaqllik River.

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