After a beautifully exhausting, non-stop, fun-filled week in Seattle we set off to visit the great state of Alaska.
This trip we would spend time in both Fairbanks and Anchorage so that we could visit my entire family. Which meant Hodges/in law overload for Peter.
First… Fairbanks. Always special for me due to spending my first 18 years of the throws of life in this enchanting small town. My heart will always be Alaskan.
Peter and I found ourselves in the Seattle airport barely able to keep our eyes open. We did gather some pep in our step though when we ran into this cute little lady.
That’s my Mom!
She was on her way back from her own adventure in Europe. Maybe that’s where I get it? Peter and I bumped into her as we were all on our way to the same place…her house.
Hours later Peter and I landed in Fairbanks and were greeted by the very best welcoming committee of all time. Of all time.
Look at the poor guy on the right. Head down wondering where his hugs are.
Nothing quite like niece and nephew love. Oh and I guess my brother too. I am always surely and affectionately greeted by his favorite nickname for me “hey dummy.” Some things never change.
Our first night we had a family dinner and got all caught up on the previous months. Peter, my brother, sister-in-law, and myself all regaled and reminded each other of funny moments and memories of our time spent in Thailand. This was the first time we had seen them since we had kept them up most of the night before sending them on a 20 hour journey back home. Oh family dynamics.
Highlights of our time in Fairbanks included:
Getting to spend Jen’s birthday together
Our second day home was a special one because it was Jen’s Birthday. In all the years Jen has been in my life (about 14) I have never been able to spend a birthday with her. She took the day off of work and we got to spend it together doing girl stuff such as mani/pedis, gossip, and a lunch with the guys.
The day was rounded out nicely with a family dinner prepared by Chris— King of the grill— and some deletable wine. Curtesy of Fred Meyer of course.
Towards the end of the evening there was a strong debate on the shortest person in the family. In the end people couldn’t agree but I think this picture tells a strong story.
Please disregard the pouf atop my Mom’s head and I think we have ourselves a clear winner.
Is the winner the shortest person or the tallest? Either way it’s close. (Update: Grace has now bypassed Mom and I)
Seeing Grace Play Basketball
Playing basketball was one of my most favorite things to do while growing up in Fairbanks. I absolutely loved it and it brought me a tremendous amount of joy. I was known for playing with a tenacious heart and for being aggressive on the court. Some might say I became slightly possessed on that basketball court. My Mom loves to tell the story of whenever there was a “loose ball on the court, Jaime always came up with it.” It was to my delight to watch Grace and see such a similarity in how she plays her game, only better. I loved seeing her come alive in such a different way than I have before. It was made even more special that she was playing in the same gym that I use to practice and play at.
I am fortunate and grateful to still have strong friendships with my Alaska girlfriends. Even though I live far away and lately not even in the same country, we never skip a beat. There is something so special and unique when it comes to friends you grew up with. Some of us have known each other since we were born. With that brings a magic of no matter the time or the distance, when we see each other it is like no time has passed. There is a comfort and ease that is unparalleled. It’s something I am always and forever grateful for.
Despite everyones busy schedules (there are a ton of kiddos in the mix now) we were still able to get together for an afternoon of quality time. Inevitably the conversations go to trouble making, funny teacher stories (we know we terrorized you), heartbreak (love at 16), Jim Sheehan, and the latest in our lives.
Oh and of course Mom juice aka Rosé.
I LOVE and adore these beautiful from the inside out women!
Who is the winner in the shortest contest here? sigh
You know the term tom boy? Well I took the cake during my years growing up in Fairbanks. It wasn’t just the aforementioned love of playing basketball. Also included was fishing, hunting, camping, Metallica, White Snake, etc. This adoption of many things male was due not only to growing up in Alaska, but also because I have two older brothers that I idolized and wanted to be involved in everything they were doing. I have since realized that that juvenile idolatry was misguided as well as misplaced. :)
My husband Peter on the other hand had never shot a gun in his life until he met me. We had done some skeet shooting a couple summers back. He enjoyed it. I was annoyed because he had a really good shot. Something I had perfected after years and years of practice.
This was the first time I had been home since I left at 18 during duck hunting season. Some of my tom boy ways have worn off and now I don’t have it in me to kill a bird. However, the Hodges all thought it would be fun to force Peter into it. You know, test out the real man in the California boy. This was mainly done by my Dad and my brother, Chris.
Peter who is one of the more open-minded people I have come across was up for the challenge.
In order to access our cabin at Minto it requires about a 30 minute float plane ride. The boys went on the first trip while I continued to indulgence myself on High School shenanigan stories and Rosé with my friends.
Here is the float pond where we take off from.
Peter snapped some nice photos from the air.
The guys had a smooth landing in Minto with the most excitement coming from this one regarding being there.
Our cabin in Minto isn’t so much a cabin, but more of a shack. One major storm or bear break in and I feel fairly confident that that thing is a goner.
The inside is seriously cramped quarters. It’s where we all sleep so this is major Hodges invasion for Peter. There is some serious family bonding that goes on when spending the night in the middle of absolute nowhere and practically on top of each other. You will leave a trip like this either closer or not liking one another. No grey area here.
In the above picture Chris is smiling because he knows what is about to happen for the first time ever.
Who’s the real man now?!?!
Peter, Dad, and Chris quickly got changed and headed out for their “adventure.” Peter was given shooting lessons by the Great Hunter Jay Hodges. And he did manage to hit about 4 ducks. He actually really enjoyed himself, but it was more of the hanging out with the guys in wilderness, drinking beer, having bro talk while wearing cameo and gun belts that did it for him.
Chris had to leave after a few hours to pick up the girls. Peter mentioned to me that being out there with my Dad hearing all his stories was one of the best times he has had with him. They sat there for hours exchanging stories. Although Peter was mainly interested in hearing about the life of my Dad. That’s some serious father-in-law bonding.
Poor Chris had to leave to get Jen and I. I am sure he was pretty annoyed with us.
Especially when I asked him if inflight beverages would be served. Where is the Chardonnay?
Upon arrival Chris couldn’t get away from us quick enough and he was off to join the guys for some more hunting. Jen and I held down the fort by drinking copious amounts of Pinot Noir. We weren’t totally worthless though we did get dinner started.
I can’t be sure what’s going on in the above picture.
When the guys got back from their full day of hunting I insisted on a photo shoot. I could barely believe that my Southern Californian raised husband was really duck hunting with my family. Plus these pictures would lead to a good amount of shock value with Peter’s friends and family.
In fact after firing off the original picture of Peter in the duck blind to his family I received crickets in response. The radio silence led me to believe that the picture left them with some concern as to our influence on their son. Totally warranted.
After eating a very Alaskan meal of steak and potatoes we sat around late into the night exchanging what I like to call Cabin Talk stories. It’s stories that you don’t otherwise tell in a normal setting and it’s where the stories stay.
At one point Chris recommended we head outside to just see if perhaps the Northern Lights had in a fortuitous event decided to join us.
We walked the tree lined pathway that led to the open night sky and to our good fortune the Northern Lights were serendipitously streaking the vastly starry sky. This was the first time for Peter seeing this wondrous marvel of mother nature. I can’t think of too many other places to see it that would parallel being exactly where we were. It was a big day of firsts for Peter. I knew he had enjoyed it when I looked at him, his mouth agape as he stared up at the laser light show dancing across the sky.
The next morning after preparing a pre-hunt breakfast the guys were at it again.
They were gone for hours and once again came back victorious. There is something about being out in the wild that makes hours seem like minutes.
Shortly after their return we packed up and Chris took the girls back on the first trip home. We had a cherry on top of mother nature with a rainbow send off.
Alaska really outdoes itself in the natural beauty category.
On our very last night in Fairbanks Peter was to face his last Alaskan real man test. My Dad cooked up the hearts of the ducks and asked Peter if he was going to eat one. The conversation went back and forth with my brother chiming in with a couple chastisements. Finally after Peter realized that this might not be one he would live down he reluctantly conceded.
The funny thing to me regarding the above picture is that by the end of our trip Peter’s look and persona were actually more Alaskan.
Our next stop was Anchorage to visit the other brother, Jason and his husband Evan.
Thanks to the Hodges for all their hospitality. As per usual it was nothing but the best of times. Nothing like — as my Dad fondly refers to it— “family bonding.” It’s the Golden Years Baby.
Thanks for reading about our adventures. I’m always so grateful that people want to follow along.
BEAR DOWN! No pun intended.