Friday, April 19, 2019

Going Home – Join Me?

The Issaquah Hobart Road snakes southeast through the fertile valley between Squak and Tiger Mountains in the foothills of the Cascade Range. As a kid, I rode horseback along this two-lane road. The summer after high school, I cycled it to my first job at Clampitt’s Cleaners in downtown Issaquah. If you keep an eye to the left side of the road as you head toward the tiny town of Hobart about six and a half miles from Issaquah, you’ll still see the tall metal arch my dad built over the driveway to the home I grew up in, a house Dad built one red brick at a time. A family project.
In the intervening decades, the area has changed as many of the large farms along the road have been subdivided, but by comparison to areas to the north and west of Issaquah, the town and the valley feel relatively unchanged. The old time buildings lining Front Street have been preserved, and the Issaquah Hobart Road is still only two lanes. And while West Seattle has been my home for over three decades, my roots remain firmly planted in the Issaquah Valley.
 I teach ESL to immigrants and refugees. My first class spring quarter had 25 students from 14 different countries – Bulgaria, China, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, Iraq, Laos, Mexico, Russia, Somalia, Syria, Taiwan, Vietnam – students who, unlike me during my years as an ex-pat in Mexico, have no safety net and may never be able to return to their homelands.

An unprecedented 68.5 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 25.4 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.

There are also an estimated 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement. 

According to a recent study done at the University of Washington, only about a third of those displaced people will ever be able to return home. 

These numbers humble me.

On the first day of class, we do an introductory activity. World map in hand we circulate learning each other’s names and homelands. I tell them about the Issaquah Valley, about my roots.

In 2008 when TheThirty-Ninth Victim was published, I felt compelled to “go home.” Although the library I once knew, the place I’d often go after school to read or do homework while waiting for Mom or Dad to collect me, no longer exists, I wanted to share my work at the lovely replacement library. The library scheduled an event and it did indeed feel like a homecoming.

Now I have another family memoir in print. Mom’s Last Move continues the story that began in The Thirty-Ninth Victim, and again I feel that homing instinct, that urge to go home, to take my family story home where it began, to the valley that holds my roots. I am grateful to Zlatina Encheva and the Issaquah Library for their warm support.

Please mark your calendars, invite your friends, and join me in Issaquah on Friday, May 10 at 5:00 p.m. for a reading/presentation of Mom’s Last Move, a story of motherhood, memory loss and the writing journey of a 1972 Issaquah High graduate who grew up on Tiger Mountain.

 10 W Sunset Way, Issaquah, WA
Friday, May 10 @ 5:00 p.m.


arleen said...

Thank you! Much appreciated!

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