Bellingham

Well, we made it!

After a journey that involved escaped rats, a bout with pneumonia and lots of family drama, we made it to Bellingham the day before Thanksgiving.

We started out two days late, with two dogs, two cats, two rats, three kids and Mark and me riding up front. 

Mark drove with me and the kids as far as Los Angeles, stopping at the Grand Canyon, and then we traded out: My Aunt Nora, who thankfully had a lobotomy recently and had offered to help, got in, and Mark got out.

Then I dropped off a dog, lost a rat, had a fight with one of my sisters, developed pneumonia, got stuck in hellacious traffic in Portland, ask Aunt Nora to open the glove compartment, thereby found the rat, and rode the rest of the way with Aunt Nora in the car-top carrier.

You know the motto of the true alcoholic -- "I'll never drink again," they say, as they sit by the toilet, ashen-faced and shaky? I can't even say "I'll never move again," because we're in rented house. We have to do all of this all over again in June.

But you know what? That's a good thing. 
Because I like it here.

Bellingham is gorgeous. Until I came here, my two favorite places in terms of scenery and everyday beauty were Indian Lake, New York, and Tuscany, Italy.

Indian Lake would have been perfect, if it weren't so far away from oceans, Target, Costco and any place to have an actual job. Well, that and the fact that the weather gets to 20 degrees BELOW zero on a regular basis and everyone has a snowmobile as their second vehicle. 

Tuscany would be perfect, if it weren't so freaking Italian. I mean, really. There's no a Sonic drive-in for miles -- where's a girl going to go to get a 44-ounce Coke with crushed ice in a styrofoam cup? (OK, Tuscany is pretty near perfect. But I'm looking for a place in the US, at least for now.)

But you know what?

This place gives them a run for it.

Bellingham is nestled between the mountains on the east and the ocean on the west. It's about a 40-mile stretch of hilly land, surrounded by pine trees and forest.

There are mountains everywhere you look, unless you turn around, and then you've got an ocean view. You want snow and cold weather? Drive up to Mt. Baker. It's an hour away, with three feet of snow on any given winter day.

Want a big city? Vancouver's less than an hour away. Or how about Seattle? I went Christmas shopping there yesterday -- 80 miles away, all freeway, and you're in and out.

But the best thing about Bellingham, so far, is Bellingham itself. It's small enough that there is no traffic and the town is less than five miles from end to end. It's got 80,000 people, and it's a university town, which means there's good Thai food and sushi and beer and live bands.

And it's big enough that there's a Costco and a Target and a mall and a library system and a farmer's market.

Want good, local food? There's a store called the Food Co-op with great organic stuff and a gluten-free bakery. Oh, and there's a store called Public Market with great organic stuff and a gluten-free baked good section.

Oh, and there's a place called Fred Meyers which has a huge organic section.

Oh, and there's a Trader Joe's, too.

Oh, and a Farmer's Market every Wednesday and Saturday where everything's local and funky and in-season and everyone's welcoming.

And that doesn't count the actual gluten-free bakery in town, or the stores which all offer gluten-free bread for sandwiches, or the restaurants which all have a gluten-free menu.

Or the ice cream store which has five types of vegan ice cream, all served in "real" bowls, not disposable, because, why not? And of course, they only take cash.

Add in more good Mexican food than I would have thought possible this far north, a store that sells only socks, a bicycle parade where the kids lit up their bikes and wore superhero capes, and tomorrow, a glass-blowing class for my Cub Scout, and it's been a good couple of weeks so far.

The weather is dreary and cold, and it gets dark very early. But I don't really mind dreary and cold -- you can dress for it and go out in it, and it hasn't really rained very hard -- a little drizzle here and there.

I can live with that -- you can only take off so many layers in Texas before you're stripped to the skin. You can't get more naked than naked, and when you're in shorts and a T-shirt and flip-flops and you're still hot, you're screwed. Time to go inside. With the cold, you can dress for it. You can always add another layer and be ready for anything.

I might change my mind come February. Hell, I might change my mind next week. But another funny thing I've noticed is more redheads than I've ever seen. Perhaps it's not just vampires who live in the Pacific Northwest. Perhaps this is where red-headed people who combust at the sight of the sun are supposed to live. 

We haven't quite been enfolded into the homeschooling community yet, but we're working on it.

We've gone to three park days and a game day, and the boys are in Scouts and in Cub Scouts.

I've met people I recognize, and people who are friendly-ish. I don't have anyone's phone number yet. I don't have anyone to call if there's an emergency.

If I were sick in bed for three weeks, I have no one to bring me soup. I've gone as far as to contemplate joining a church just for the potlucks and friendship.

But I think as we go along, the friends will come. There are a lot of people here who are like we are, whatever that is.

So far, we're settling right in.

Meagan McGovern