I often joke that Missoula and I have a twisted relationship. You know the kind. When it is good, it is so good. And when it is bad…holy hell. Like, for example, last March when, after too many days and weeks of gray skies, I felt like I often have in “spring” around here. I wanted to pack my bags, fly south or west or ANYWHERE ELSE and never come back. I pictured me, Seth and the girlies on a Mexican beach, on the California coast or in the heart of Portland escaping the blank gray (at least it rains in Portland), escaping the unemployment, escaping the mountain tax. This happens every spring. Every spring. And I’ve come to accept it as part of living in Missoula, as a part of this delicate relationship dance she and I take part in.
Then comes a week like last week and I can’t think of living in another place. Ever. I understand, again, why I placed my heart on the altar of not-quite-sure-how-we’ll-make-it so many years ago. I understand, again, that we stay because of our people.
It all started with Halloween and a party a friend hosts for all of our children. Since it is in its third year, I’m now calling it a tradition, something we can count on annually. I’m not really sure how my friend, the host, feels about that but I’m going with it. We gather before dark and eat good food while the kids run up and down the sidewalk, compare costumes and generally get amped about the trick or treating that will come. Then we herd up and walk the streets of possibly the best neighborhood on the planet. This year, at one of our first stops, a man gave away art, letting kids choose which painting they’d like. Then we moved from friends house to friends house, merging, then pulling away from other roving bands of sugared youngsters. When we headed toward our apartment on the Northside, I remember thinking this is the neighborhood I always wanted, the one I’ve had before and the one I want to keep. I remember thinking our kids are so lucky, we all are so lucky.
Two days later we arrived downtown just before dusk and had our faces painted for the day of the dead parade. I’d never heard of the day of the dead before moving here. Missoula, she gave me that. We lined up with Eliza’s class, kids and parents painted to honor those who have gone before us and as night fell we walked down our town’s main drag, carrying banners and altars. Beating drums. We arrived at a park by the river where each of our girls had visited with their schools earlier in the day to help create a mandala out of colored sawdust on the stage at a local park. They showed us where they’d worked earlier in the day then we all got to a high step to watch women spinning fire.
“Can I do that one day mama?” Lucille said.
Yeah baby, yeah. Because we live in Missoula.