Ten Years In Moscow

It was February 22, 2002, that the boys and I, fueled by a stop at Starbucks and Krispy Kreme in Issaquah, Washington, hit I-90 east with a truck full of our stuff and, stomachs churning and tears yet to dry on adolescent and third-grade cheeks, said goodbye to family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and ministry and prepared to begin our new lives in my husband’s hometown, Moscow, Idaho.

Jeff was to join us that weekend, and for the first six months of our time in Moscow, in a house on Ridgeview Drive whose backyard overlooked the front yard and barn he and his grandfather built up on their family home, he was with us for nine days and “back there” for the next nine, winding up his 22-year tenure as co-owner of Total Landscape Corporation in Woodinville. We had lived in Snohomish County for 18 years as his business took off and my ministry among immigrant workers flourished, and his family all lived in Snohomish and Monroe and Gold Bar, guaranteeing not only that we’d always have a babysitter, but that our sons would grow up knowing as much about being part of a close family as they did about layering outside attire so as to take advantage of every possible chance to be outdoors. Anthony was three when we moved to our perfect little Monroe rancher on a perfect little residential street abutted by cul-de-sacs and filled with preschool-aged boys. Jonah was born while we were there, and, except for an ill-advised move to Snohomish exactly a year before we moved to Moscow — a move that still grieves us, accomplishing, as it did, nothing more than the uprooting of our sons’lives while failing to stanch the tide of work and ministry that had begun to take over our own — that’s the home they grew up in.

But the reality is that a God-prospered business and a God-directed ministry still can spill over their banks and consume a young family not adept at setting boundaries, and so, after much prayer and with equal parts anguish and joy, we decided to move to the place I fell in love with the first year of our marriage, 1984, when we went to a family reunion on the grounds of the little house behind the bank of trees we live in now — the house that’s nestled onto property that’s been in Jeff’s family for 127 years, the house I fell in love with that weekend even without going inside — the house I know with all of my heart I was born to live in, in the town I considered my home even before I began living there.

Lots of big things have happened in the decade since we decided to “simplify our lives.” I’ve tried politics and continued my activism; I’ve suffered loss, worked myself to the point of exhaustion on losing causes, and lost contact with scores and scores of people I worked with for 12 years in Monroe. It wasn’t in the plan, of course, but I’ve gone through the fear and pain of physical illness and a car wreck that changed my life, and I smile at the irony that more sunny days in Moscow came to me when I was first too busy to enjoy them on my bicycle and now not at all busy and yet unable to enjoy them anyway by hiking, bicycling, and doing all of the strenuous things that I always had. It hasn’t all been good; it certainly hasn’t all been “simple.” But through even the darkest days, I know I’m living in my hometown. My family has prospered here in every way. Jeff sold his share of his big, successful business and works now with a partner, his truck, and a bigger smile than I had seen during too much of the mid-1980s and 1990s. My boys grew to like Moscow, but my eldest left even before he graduated from the University his grandfathers did, and my youngest seems more content here than I thought he would. Anthony’s back in Monroe-Snohomish; Jonah’s thrilled to be at BookPeople. The balance of our lives has been demonstrated, I suppose, in my sons, and each is where he should be.

But Jeff and I are here, and I wanted to take this time to thank Moscow for the innumerable gifts its given me. Every sales clerk, pharmacist, grocery store cashier, barista, nurse, waitress, and office administrator who remembers my name has deepened my roots here, making me feel connected and cared for; every friend I’ve made has gladdened my heart. The doctor whose put up with me for ten years, Helen Shearer, is a Godsend, and the teachers who’ve enriched my sons’ lives are as well. This is a lively town, a hotbed of thought and activity. I’ve wrangled with conservatives and infuriated liberals, and I’ve learned that some of the wisest people I know have very little formal schooling. Conversely, my previous awe of the Ph.D and the Ed.D has been . . . well . . . more than a little tempered. I’ve lived well, loved much, lost some, gained more, and been refined, tested, and strengthened by being part of the most wonderful town in the world. I’ve eaten well, enjoyed music and art and theater and poetry, and have been moved to tears by the beauty of the woods to my east and the soft ripple of wind through green wheatfields to my west. I’ve found the church I’ve always longed for and I marvel that they’re glad they found me. I’ve had the privilege of meeting many of you here on Vision 2020, and whether we’ve agreed or not, or whether I’ve annoyed you or encouraged you, you’ve been part of my “coming home,” as John Denver put it, to a place I’d never been before. My prayer is that those who know me would see that everything I’ve done publicly in Moscow has as its ultimate goal the betterment of our town. I haven’t always gotten it right. It hasn’t been the easiest, most simple, or least painful decade of my life — not by a long shot. But if life serves up hard things, I’m glad I’ve been rooted here to meet them. Moscow is knit through my husband’s and my family’s history, and I’m beyond grateful that it’s knit through the tapestry of my life and will be ’til the end. I live in Moscow, Idaho, and with all of my heart, I thank God and I thank you all for your part in making this the only place I’ll ever want to live.

Leave a Reply