This was part of the teenage ritual. Pizza and soda. Central Market. Wandering the aisles, laughing over the ridiculousness of Harlequin romance novel covers, playing tag and hiding behind produce displays. Hanging out in the parking lot talking about someone's latest crush (never mine. I never told.). This comprised more than a few Saturday nights with a group of friends. Most of us, appropriately enough, shared the same first name: Erin.
This particular Sunday, Central Market is full of people. There is a group of high schoolers sitting near us with their laptops out. They are drinking coffee. I suddenly feel old. We never had laptops and rarely drank coffee in high school.
I look at Eric. He has a long beard and shaved head. A tattoo sleeve on one arm. I have my requisite grey beanie on. I probably fiddle unconsciously with my nose ring. We are both in our early 30s.
We are talking about people we both know. This usually lands us back to conversations about goings on at our high school, Central Kitsap.
"Did you know that I was a judge at CK?" I say.
"We had this ASB court. I was one of four student judges. We had to wear robes. Students came to us about things like getting parking spots, but sometimes there were other things, like underaged drinking. I can't say who, but yeah. Every Thursday morning. Senior year."
Eric looks at me, taking all of this in. "I had no idea there was even a thing like that at our school."
"Yeah," I say. "I liked being involved." And I was. National Honor Society. ASB Judge. A Senator during my Junior year, which may sound interesting, but I have no clue what I did. I played on the school's tennis team (poorly, but with heart) for two years.
But "growing up Kitsap" was challenging, and the list of things to do were finite:
1. Kitsap Mall
2. Austin Chase (coffee)
3. Central Market (read: not Silverdale, our town. best option)
4. Silverdale Waterfront (boring; I never liked going here and rarely did, though it was often suggested)
5. Movies (Matrix Reloaded, Finding Nemo, Harry Potter: Chamber of Secrets, Chicago, Spirited Away, The Hours...a few of the movies we saw. Does this date me? Often went in Poulsbo; again, not Silverdale)
My friends and I also just drove around. We found entertainment in driving backroads of neighboring areas (re: Poulsbo) until we called it an early night (Thanks, Moms and Dads!) and headed home.
Perhaps it is no mistake then that I have found a sort of wistful comfort in my recent driving excursions through Brownsville, Hansville, and Poulsbo. But now I have a deeper appreciation for this territory than I did when I was a teenager.
Back then I felt trapped and misunderstood. I was a bagel and rice vegan. I loved independent and classic films like Run Lola Run, Elizabeth, and Rebel Without A Cause. I read books like Fast Food Nation, The Art of Happiness, East of Eden, and anything about the Tudors. I listened to Moby, Sarah McLachlan, and No Doubt.
To express my sense of being misunderstood, a small snapshot:
At the lunch table during my senior year, one of the girls I sat with took one look at my tofurkey sandwich and declared, as I was eating it, "That looks like a fetal pig." That ended my consumption of tofurkey sandwiches.
Simply put: I longed for college.
I have high school peers and friends who have now made their homes here in Kitsap, from Bremerton to Port Orchard, Silverdale to Kingston. And I can see why: lower cost of living, beautiful nature all around, close to hiking trails, and within an hour of either Seattle or Tacoma for city sights and sounds.
These days I find new things to appreciate about Kitsap County:
- Bainbridge Island has the best coffee and bakery in the county. (Hello, Blackbird Bakery!)
- Silverdale has an REI. (Sales Tax is cheaper than in Seattle!)
- Green Mountain has good local hiking trails. (Free workout!)
- Central Market has the nostalgia factor. ($3 pizza slices--any kind!)
- The hippie crunchy granola co-op farming community of Port Townsend isn't too far away. (YAY!)
- My parents, Anam Cara, and other dear friends live here. (Best reason to appreciate Kitsap.)
Some things have changed. Others haven't.
I wonder what going to high school would be like now. I mean, picture it:
Landlines. Dial-up internet. Tina Fey & Amy Poehler ruled SNL. George W. Bush was still in his first term.
This is 2003. This is my senior year of high school. I am 18.
I-phones. High speed internet. Kate McKinnon rules SNL. Barack Obama is the outgoing president after two terms.
This is 2016. I am 32.
I feel old.