Yesterday, Michelle arrived home on the Alaska Marine Highway ferry, Malispina. She’s been away since February 7th, visiting her parents in Bellingham, Washington. Aly and I picked her up at the ferry and brought her home. Now it’s time to deprogram her.
I expected to need to do this. As you might imagine, our life requires a fair amount of readjustment, even after as little as two weeks. In addition to the normal change, she’s having to adapt back to our conditions after being in her parents’ home.The hike in stripped away layers of her recent activity. We were delayed by the falling tide just enough to fill our packs with some of what she brought home, squeezed in among the clean clothes Aly and I had washed that day while waiting for her arrival. The sun began to set, lighting up the Coast Range across Lynn Canal with a gentle orange-pink light as they towered above us, magnified in the atmosphere.
The trail proved to be a bit treacherous. The snow I’d been so hopeful about didn’t quite pan out. As the snow fell, the temperature rose just above freezing. This melted the snow in the trees, which dripped heavily, then froze. The next morning, we found that water flowing beneath the snow froze, along with the drips, leaving much of the yard, and a good deal of the trail knobbed with ice, and treacherous. We had to carefully pick our way down the final slope to the cabin in the dusk. We also crossed carefully, watching for a pair of moose Aly and I had encountered near the trail on our hike out.
Michelle commented that it felt good to hike fast through the forest. Mom and Dad are growing older, and health problems are slowing them down. They walked a fair amount during their visit, but not at any speed Michelle is used to.
Now she’s adjusting to the change in daylight, the outhouse, cold water from the tap, the increased darkness of our home, and the temperature. We are usually quite comfortable with the cabin in the low 60s, but Mom and Dad now keep their home very warm, at least by our standards. Aly and I are peeling layers while Michelle shivers.
Mostly, though, we’re trying to deprogram her socially. I love my In-laws, but they are different people in many ways. In their family, conversation is a very different process. One shows one’s enthusiasm for, and agreement with the person speaking by interrupting often, finishing the speaker’s sentences even. Conversation is a contact sport, loud, raucous, and somewhat competitive. I’ve always struggled with this, in the 30 or so years I’ve known and loved the family.
I tend to be quieter, more contemplative, slower of speech. Aly is very much the same way. These characteristics have only increased through our years in the forest. Imagine, then, Michelle re-entering that environment, newly recharged by the style in which she was raised! Aly and I are not cringing against the walls, but I’ve felt the urge once or twice. Mostly, I listen to her finish whatever I’d started to say, and, if she caught the essence of what I’d been trying to tell her, I’ll just say, “Yeah, what you said.”
We’ll have her back soon, no doubt. It’s just going to take a little time to deprogram her.