A Grandmother’s Story: My Journey in the Wilderness

Sorry I’ve been away for so long. It’s been more than 2 weeks since the last post. Been struggling with a few things so haven’t felt up to writing either physically or emotionally. Hopefully, I can catch up this weekend to get some thoughts down. In the meantime, my Mom has patiently waited for me to post her most recent piece. Thanks Mom! ~Christina

“Wilderness,” according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary is defined as a wild, uncultivated, uninhabited area, undisturbed by human activity. Oxford English Dictionary describes it as “an inhospitable region.”

Years ago, when I first came to America, I experienced this type of “wilderness,” when I lived in Alaska for several years with my biological father and his family. I was around 9 years old. Even though we lived inside a military base, the areas surrounding us, were uncultivated and uninhabited. We were surrounded by wilderness with acres after acres of evergreen trees, which during wintertime, especially after a snowfall, looked like lovely white Christmas trees. The homes and buildings looked magical with frozen water freezing mid-stream, forming icicles around the edges and from the rooftops. It was beautiful.

During the weekends, my father would take me to the wilderness, probably for two reasons. One to enjoy nature and also to teach me several lessons, such as fishing, dangers with wildlife and active listening. We would get into his two-door VW bug. As he drove, he would tell me to stay near him and he would say, “It’s beautiful here but it’s dangerous to be out by yourself, so stay close, listen to me, or you will become an appetizer for a bear!”

Papa McKing out fishing in the Alaskan wilderness

When we got to our destination, he would strap on his holster, a gun on each side of his hips, fishing poles in one hand and a bucket in the other. Sometimes, I wondered if he was even familiar with some of the places he took me. But, he just seemed to know what to do. On one trip, he taught me how to shoot his pistol and shotgun. He said, “You’ve got to be prepared, just in case you need to help keep our family safe.” (I was the eldest of his three children).

A serene stream was a few yards away from our car. He would teach me to fish for trout or salmon. Sometimes we would go by the rocky beachside to catch clams, crabs or other shellfish. We would clean whatever we caught during the trip right where we were, if the weather permitted. We would cook our catch over boiling seawater and open flames. No need to get a permit from the KOA. Nope. It was as open as it could be. I loved it! I have never tasted fish and seafood like that since leaving Alaska. You’ve heard of the famous Alaskan King Crabs? They are large and delicious. It’s become a family favorite. Some crabs are larger than myself. (Another story). It was peaceful and quiet, the sound of your breath would often be deafening. Sometimes, I would think to myself that I would scare off the fish. I was just so young and naive. What did I know? My dad taught me which berries were edible. My young siblings and I loved to pick them off the tiny shrubs. No need to wash them, my father said. It’s all natural. To this day, I remember how delicious those wild salmonberries, red currants, cranberries and wild blackberries tasted. However, my father was always nearby, carefully fishing or cooking our catch, and keeping a keen eye on us, reminding my siblings and I, not to go too far. “Remember the bears,” he would say. Especially when we were picking the berries. Fresh berries and fresh fish always seem to attract wild animals.

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I’m a Bad Daughter

I’ve been a bad daughter lately.

Let me step back…

My Dad, Joe; me; and my brother, John, at my grad school commencement from Emerson College in May 2007.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m adopted. My Mom, Liza, shared some of her insight about why she decided to put me up for adoption in one of her previous posts. An uncle and his wife adopted both my mom and I, so I was raised essentially calling my mom, my “sister.” She moved to California when I was still pretty young, I think maybe 5 or 6 years old. We didn’t see each other much, maybe every few years or so. Upon talking with her and reading her reflections about our relationship, I now have a slightly better understanding of why we had such a distant relationship for so long. It wasn’t until recently, that we’ve become closer and  I started referring to her as “mom,” which is a completely different post for another day.

My adoptive parents – Joe and Dona – were great. Just much older. They already had grown children. My “youngest” brother, John, and I are 18 years apart. He’s like my second dad. My Dad was born in 1930 and my Mom in 1924. So…if I do the math right…they were 51 and 57 when I was born. Mom would always tell the story about the judge who did the adoption. He commented that, “Why would someone your age want to adopt a child?” She always said that they didn’t believe she was that old and they took 10 years off her age on the adoption papers. Don’t know if that’s really true or not…

Mom died back in 2001. I was 20 and a sophomore in college. My dad, who is the youngest of 13 kids, is still going at 86. He lives in a senior home back in the hometown that I grew up in.

Now, we can get into why I’m a bad daughter…

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