Sep 29, 2020

Going Home ….

I found this entry  I wrote several years ago . It really brought me back to how I felt . It s really true and honest . I am so grateful I wrote it . If you can do something for yourself …write . Write your thoughts your feelings and hopes . Its amazing to go back and see your heart . You’ll be surprised what comes out .

Jan 26, 2014

I don’t get to go home that often . If I’m lucky, about every other year  , that’s not to often in my mind but I always look forward to it every single moment.  It’s just a little island way up in the northern tip of Washington, Guemes Island. It’s where I grew up amongst the Cascade mountains view from the waters edge to the east and the San Juans to the West.    Not until I hit the bridge on Hwy 20 does it send feelings of coming home. Yet, I remember the days when it was only a wooden draw bridge and we’d have to wait sometimes for it to close. Rounding the bend seeing the sign saying ” Welcome to Anacortes.”  I start to see the bay and part of the sound surrounded by tall douglas firs at the peak of the bridge and groves of alders.  The sweet smell of salt water fills me as if I had not been breathing fully all this time I was away. It feels so good and intoxicates my soul.   I just keep inhaling deeply as if I might not get this feeling again yet I never forget it.

When, I finally roll down 6th street  towards the little green ferry dock where I walked nearly everyday. The seagulls squack and the marina’s sounds of lapping water against the pilings sound comforting like a lullabye.   I love seeing this place . It’s where I traveled everyday to school to the “mainland ”  and walked up the hill to wait for the yellow bus as a child.  The outward appearance of the channel of water hasn’t changed as I look across the same  blue green shade of waves to the island waiting for me to come home. Its odd how something like that doesn’t change after years yet it is changing every single minute with the waters restlessness and the surroundings but the perimeter of this sea filled channel stays mostly untouched .  The water never ceases to stop moving . It continues on its way just as it did always and forever til it is no more.  The occasional tugboat or barge from a far away land enters  to the port up the way . I was always amazed that a barge from a land like China or Japan would make its entrance to our little tiny town .

A lot of other things have changed since I grew up . New people have come and gone, buildings have been built, and now there’s a small general store on Guemes Island. Change is inevitable but I find comfort in the things that stay the same. Many things that were most important to me have changed but the most important people are still there. One thing that has stayed the same is   My grandmother and grandfather are still living there and always will. My grandfather, one of very few, was born and raised there and attended school at the Guemes School House as did my mom.  He lives in the house he grew up in and was born on the land. The home was built by my  German great grandfather, a rather tall stoic man.  They were a family of traveling loggers, long shoreman and cattle farmers.  The Homestead is now a creamy farmhouse but I fondly remember it always having grayed red cedar shingles my entire life. The barn is out back still with the cattle corral attached and the concrete cistern.  The garden was a show stopper grown in the front where grandma grew vegetables and shared with any friend who stopped by or even stranger for that matter. People we didn’t even know would stop by to say “Hi”, especially during the summer. Some summers we would take the old green ford down to the ferry dock filled with corn to sell. So many appreciated the homegrown corn.  We ate it raw as a snack at times.

We weeded the garden along with grandma as one of our many chores.  My grandparents seemed to be like an icon in my memories of Guemes Island. The spot where the garden grew is now replaced with green grass and a Tall evergreen tree growing beautifully out of another tree stump that my grandpa scooped out of the woods on his 254 acres with his dozer or skidder. He carried it with his tractor bucket and placed it there. They are called nurse stumps and they provide food for new trees to grow. It has madrona trees growing around it as well. Something I like is just hearing my grandpa’s voice say “madrona “. I don’t know why. I just loved how excited he would get about different trees.

I remember a vibrant metal turquoise blue kitchen where grandpa always walked in from outside to get a snack. He would see me and would ask ” What do you say ? ”  as he lovingly and firmly wrapped his strong arms around me to hold my shoulders and curly hair along with a torturous rasping of his whiskers across my three-year-old cheeks. He always either smelled of wood chips, hay,  or diesel and more often than not it was usually a combination of all three. His scent was strong but was a smell I cherished and still do.

I would always squeal with delight. ” I LOVE you,  I love YOU  , GRRRrrrr…Andpa ! I love you !! !  ” .

I would continue to say it but sometimes by this point,  laughing so hard, it would take several attempts to get the whole thing out.  If he wanted to make me laugh more he would say ” what ? What’s that ………I can’t hear yooooou…….” and tickle me in my neck behind my ear with a kind of pinch to get me laughing even more.

Finally,  when he thought I’d had enough  He would let me go, grin and chuckle as he picked on a morsel of pie, or some other goodie grandma had baked that day. He continued this ritual even all through my teenage years. He is a very funny, gentle grandpa. A man of important words so when he has something to say you better listen because it is something you might not want to ever forget!  He had a strong character. Some think he is hard to get along with but if you thought that you weren’t his friend probably because he believes in right over wrong, integrity, and character. I loved spending time with my grandparents and always looked forward to it.

My grandma taught me important things like making Pies!  She was the best and her smile and laughter were incredibly contagious. She taught me the proper way to make a bed with the special hospital corners she learned as a candy striper, she taught me to sew quilts,  and even knit before there was ever a Martha Stewart around or youtube and before it was “cool”. I sort of sound old-fashioned but I like those things because of the person who taught them to me and the memories they made.  { Secretly, one day I would like to make pies in a little Cafe using my grandma’s recipes. }  My grandma is a fabulous cook! She never just made a simple dinner. It always felt like a gourmet meal with so much food she could have fed at least 10 people at every sitting. Comfort food that made your tummy smile.  She always asked if you had enough and passed another plate around. Oh, and the pies. When she made those, there were at least 3 to choose from. I remember spending my teenage years riding a brown old fashioned Schwinn bike for the purpose of trying to reverse the calories I just consumed or to determine how many slices I could eat by the rounds around the driveway I made. My cousin and I spent many rounds around the driveway at Christmas or Easter those days.

As I grew, I learned even more just how special this place was.  It’s a small 8-square-mile radius of an island in the San Juan Islands. Everyone seemed to know each other then and all about their life.  People were kind to one another. The last ferry was 6 pm during the week and Friday or Saturday we had a 12-midnight run. I felt like Cinderella with only certain hours to be out.   Luckily, I had such good friends so I was able to play sports and would stay the night on game nights with them during the season of volleyball and softball.  It always seemed like an inconvenience as a teen but still, I liked to be secluded in a way from the rest of the world on my quiet and serene island when I wanted. I believe it may have helped me to be independent, patient, and caring, or maybe those were already instilled in me by my grandmother.  I journaled a lot as a kid and would sit in my grandparent’s home upstairs in front of a window as the sun seeped behind the neighboring islands casting a rich glow across the water behind the old windmill in the field above the beach.  There I sat in a tattered upholstered rocking chair that had been downstairs for years in the living room until it was relocated in the unused upstairs where my room was. I would face it towards the beach and would write. Sometimes it was about my life,  a letter to my very best childhood friend TB Robin ,   or poems, or some sort of sketched drawing.  I dreamed about what others like me did in other worlds far away sometimes.  I wrote to my pen pal across the pond.   It was my security knowing that I could always go there and be in that moment. It was a safe place and quietness.

Sometimes,  and this is amazing to me even as I write it , as if I only dreamed it;  but I know it to be true. Sometimes,  you could hear the killer whales making their noises and blowing water out their spouts as they swam through the island channel.  They would make their way through that channel and it was such an amazing thing to see.  I thought this was normal and never realized that these were things others didn’t ever witness, only a few.  …until I moved away. I hope they still make their way through that path in the saltwater sound. It is such a beautiful sight to see. Grandma would say, “You kids better get down there the whales are going through the channel!” I’d run there so fast and try not to skid down the last part of the hill on the gravel.  There they’d be playing with their family off the shore.

When I went home last October 2013 ,  I went for a quiet walk like I always do on the beach. I searched for agates along the pebbled shore.  Smelled the air and seaweed in the air.  Felt the wind blow across my cheeks as the tears streamed down my face.  I will always love that island. It’s a part of me and where my heart will be. I am sad for the day when I go and the people I love and miss are no longer there because I still see them in ways I will never forget.   Those are the things that never change in my mind.  Memories that no one can take away no matter how lives get disrupted.

Photos circa 2016


  1. Amanda Gibbons says:

    Hi Becca!
    This is your cousin, Amanda Gibbons! I absolutely inhaled every word of your thoughts and memories of Guemes and our family, deep into my soul. The way you wrote about your memories, it’s exactly how I feel. For me “going home” is not merely a fun thing to do, it’s a very spiritual experience more than anything. You words took me back home in my soul and it feels so good!
    Thank you so much for this delight!
    Love you…….Me! 🙂

    • Rebecca Bonno says:

      I hope you are doing well my cousin!
      Awe that makes me feel so good to make one feel so deeply! Thank you for all your kind words. Yes, Guemes has our hearts forever in a very deep way. I am glad I could share it with you and connect ❤💓. The memories will always live on. Much Love.


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