Finding our home
By Lacy Heinz
My husband and I moved to Yakima in 2005. We wanted to stay in the Northwest after grad school, but choosing a city was a little like throwing a dart at the map.
Our primary goal was to be gainfully employed in order to get a little experience and start paying on those hefty student loans. Yakima was promising employment-wise, not saturated like the college towns we were more familiar with.
It was a “three year plan.” We would leave and find our permanent place, somewhere closer to extended family, once we built up our resumes.
Seven years later, we are still here. We have two kids, a cat and a dog, a mortgage, friends and colleagues, jobs that we are invested in, favorite taco joints and coffee stands. We know the back way to Costco and the best parks for training wheels. Every year our Yakima roots grow deeper. But every year we wonder if this should be our permanent home, so far from our parents and other family.
Spring is an excellent time to assess whether Yakima is really “home.” The trees are in bloom. People are out in droves planting, weeding, exercising, waving to neighbors. The Farmers’ Market is right around the corner. Visitors from around the state come for wine tasting and a bit of sun. Kids on the playground squeal and frolic. (No, really, they do — we live right down the street from an elementary school.) As I write this, it is early spring, and my own children are playing in the sandbox after eating lunch outside. There is an incomparable charm to Yakima in the spring.
But I am not a Yakima cheerleader. There is a brand of Yakima-dweller who is tired of the negative headlines and wants everyone to stand up and shout for all the good we have here in the Valley.
And we do have a lot of wonderful things here: fun recreation, a decent housing market, hops and grapes and lots of industry. I recognize this, but I’m not oblivious to the challenges we face as a community either. I was a prosecutor for some time and am acutely aware of the crime rate. Disturbing also is significant malnutrition and obesity in children. Underfunded public schools, too. But I don’t really have an eagle eye on these issues at the moment either. The dual faces of Yakima — its sunny, bright-blossomed glow and its shadier side — color the backdrop of my child-rearing years, but they do not define my experience.
What keeps me going and digging a little deeper each year are Yakima’s people. Every time we talk about moving away and being closer to our extended family, I get a jolt of fear that, in a new city, I would not have a community of caring and genuine friends that makes our lives so rich. I have two grandmotherly neighbors who consistently offer up chocolate chip cookies, gossip and pregnancy war stories. I have forged friendships with mothers who continue to support me despite my impulsive late night text messaging practices. (Me: “3 cheeseburgers normal at 6 mo pregnant right??” Nice friend: “Of course!!!”) My husband and I have both had willing mentors in our chosen fields. We have friends who live in the country and have allowed our children to pick apples and meet all manner of livestock. To top it off, we have found the best babysitter. (That alone is worth its weight in gold.)
So, while it is difficult to live so far from family in other parts of the Northwest, we continue to stay in Yakima. The endless irrigation water and fertile soil give us lovely things to grow and eat, while our dear friends bring sunshine to our days.
Yakima is good to us.
–Lacy Heinz is a Mom with a capital M who loves to read, root for the Oregon Ducks, and do a little legal work when time and preschoolers permit.
Filed under From the Mag