"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

The Comeback Kid(s)

By on October 28, 2019 in Columnist with 0 Comments
Jim Brigleb

By Jim Brigleb

Year 1993: My family moved to Wenatchee. Later, we moved away from Wenatchee in 2008. Now, we moved back to Wenatchee in 2019. Why?

In locating to Wenatchee the first time, it followed a series of “cold calls” to teachers (my chosen career) who lived here. “Hello,” I’d start, “I know this is a bit out of left field, but can you tell me about Wenatchee? My family is considering moving there.” 

By today’s standards, I’m sure this would all have to be accomplished via Facebook, but way back in 1991-92, people used these things called telephones. (Google as necessary.)

Research revealed Wenatchee fit the bill. It had a hospital, a community college, and a population of people with, what I’ll call, values

It was growing slowly and with purpose. Smitten with the prospect, I drove up, scouted this new frontier, and convinced this was the Promised Land, purchased a lot. Two years passed as we waited for our California house to sell and a job to materialize.

Finally, the house did sell, but long distance attempts at securing a job produced nothing. 

In desperation, I drove up just after the school year had ended, hoping to find and corner an administrator in a relaxed mood — having made it through the previous academic year. 

Mustering up my courage, I walked into Pioneer Middle School. Aha! The target appeared — assistant principal, Dan Wilson (just retired this year, 2019). 

Fortunately for me, Dan was a true gentleman, greeted my intrusion with grace, and we spent over an hour talking and touring the building. 

I don’t remember the specifics, but in short order, I was hired. (Take a note future teachers: we called this The Good Old Days.) 

For 15 wonderful years, our four kids enjoyed growing up in the Valley, playing sports, becoming Pantherettes and Applettes, Apple Blossom, and all participating in the ample opportunities of education, sports, music and drama (a la Dan Jackson and Paul Atwood). 

So, why did we leave?

We didn’t have extended family in Wenatchee. All vacations were spent traveling away, and visiting hither or thither. (Go ahead, Google Map those places.) 

Friends and family acted as if they needed vaccinations to come east of the Cascades. Concerning visitations, I-90 and I-5 only went one direction — from Wenatchee to wherever. 

Additionally, our grown children sought secondary education, careers and venues in other locations — outside the now friendly boundaries of Chelan and Douglas counties. After 15 years, we got itchy, and decided to move closer to extended family.

Fast forward to 2019 — two of our brood had already migrated back to Wenatchee. A third landed a teaching job in the Wenatchee School District just this year. Our children were drawn back to their roots — the mighty Columbia was rolling on. 

About this time, a fortuitous conversation occurred between my wife and me. 

As Baby Boomers, we started experiencing the realities of aging: the Fountain of Youth, we discovered, is a fanciful concept — (more innocence lost!). A close friend in Seattle developed bladder cancer. A client was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. A friend lost her husband unexpectedly. 

At a pivotal moment, I asked my wife, “If something were to happen to me, what would you do?” Without much hesitation she replied, “Move to Wenatchee to be by the kids and grandkids.” (May the reader hear the boom of timpani and crashing cymbals.)

In short order, we listed and sold our house, and found a new home in Wenatchee. With three of the four kids having moved back to their “roots,” and a bevy of grandchildren, we now have extended family here. 

What drew the kids back? A community unembarrassed to celebrate pageantry — Apple Blossom. A great school system that recognizes its responsibility to parental concerns. The quality and prevalence of musicals and theatrical productions. The Valley echoing with the constant practice of the high school marching band. The cheering of parents, friends, and grandparents at sporting events. A community that embraces both diversity and tradition. The beauty of the River Front Park. The recognition of the Columbia Basin Project being a vital part of our economic existence, along with a societal awareness to preserve our natural environment. 

And, what was that word? Ah yes, values. One can take these things for granted — but not many other cities and/or towns where I’ve lived enjoy the strong sense of community we enjoy in this Valley.

Wenatchee and East Wenatchee are unique in the sense that, we are not just on the way to somewhere else. You pretty much have to be purposeful to arrive here — as opposed to “just passing through.” 

And I think that is somewhat of a saving grace for the Valley. We are not a product of urban sprawl. Unlike many metropolitan areas, we are neither an outgrowth, nor a burgeoning city struggling with the problems associated with “too big, too fast.”

Wenatchee and East Wenatchee are special places. Some may think we are a bit rustic. But, having been elsewhere, here, and elsewhere, I like the purposefulness in our change. 

Back in 1993, there was no Costco, no Home Depot nor Lowes, no Walmart, and everybody went to Stan’s. (Remember when the first escalator, at the Valley Mall was a big deal?) 

Times change and so do we. I find it refreshing that Costco exists here, and yet Stan’s has a loyal clientele that embraces the exceptional service provided there. 

I’m glad to be back. Back home. Back to community values; where the past is embraced while welcoming change that is inevitable and can be beneficial. May Wenatchee and East Wenatchee continue to grow and flourish as purposeful cities. 

And I hope I never move again. I’m getting too old for the drama and energy required!

Jim Brigleb was a humor columnist in the early days of The Good Life while he was still teaching in the Wenatchee School District, prior to moving to Oregon.

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