What Matters Most

I recently learned a lot about what matters most to me. It should not have surprised me the way it did. Last week my family went on a cruise. We sailed from Galveston, Texas, to a few ports in the Caribbean. We had fun but we could have enjoyed ourselves more. We like to meet people on cruises, so we always tell the dining room staff that we like to share tables. They note our request, and usually they seat us with one or two couples and we make friends during dinner.

This time we made our request to share, but no one took us up on our offer. We spent every night by ourselves. I don’t know why. People may have balked at sitting with a three-year-old and an infant. Usually, though, the wannabe grandparents love sitting with the kids, so I doubt the kids were the problem. There were also many families with small children aboard who should have jumped at the chance to meet us. We all know how much parents need grownup conversation. So we sat, night after night, at big tables, looking like the uncool kids in the school cafeteria.

I work at home, so I love to see people. I was so bored with our family I would have given anything to meet someone, but as the week went on, I wasn’t so sure. The day we stopped in Jamaica, my husband,Matt, overheard some people talking on their balcony. They talked about the “N-word” natives on the island, and even tossed in a few “Sand N-word” epithets as well.

Growing up in the South, Matt encountered a lot of bigotry, and he chalked up the ignorant statements to the demographics of the vessel. We did sail from Texas, and we saw a lot of string ties and cowboy hats on the boat. In addition to the Texans, we saw people from Oklahoma and Arkansas. I know that not all Texans, and even not all Deep Southerners, are racist, but something about this trip attracted the bigots.

We couldn’t figure out why people who didn’t like black people would cruise to Jamaica in the first place. There’s ignorance and there’s stupidity and that’s just stupidity. We didn’t hear them, but I’m sure the same people complained about the Mexicans in Mexico just as loudly. The more we learned about the people on board, the less we wanted to know them. And now that the trip is over, we’re glad we don’t have to deal with them anymore, bless their little racist hearts.

A few weeks ago, Matt looked at a transfer to North Carolina. Although we’d be closer to our people on the East Coast, I had mixed feelings. I love our house in Seattle. The Pacific Northwest is a beautiful and safe place to raise children. We’ve just begun to discover all that Seattle has to offer. But, although the natives are nice, if you try to get to know them, they’re so guarded you’d think they’d were in Witness Protection.

I thought about the idea of North Carolina a lot. We have close friends there, and Matt’s family is a three-hour drive from there. Visiting my family would still require a flight, though. But it was tempting. So I slept on it. When I awoke, my decision was crystal clear. The house, the lack of crime, the experiences all meant nothing if we didn’t like the people. I told Matt I’d leave these closed-off freaks in a heartbeat.

I have made friends in Seattle, but the few that are natives don’t subscribe to the typical “Seattle Ice” attitude. I have found that the ones who aren’t guarded are few and far between. It’s not just my experience, every transplant will tell you the same thing. Seattleites are colloquially called “The nicest people you’ll never get to know.”

On the East Coast, especially in New York, where I’m from, we knew where people stood within five minutes of meeting them. We knew if they liked or disliked us and we let them know the same, and even if we weren’t a match, we appreciated knowing right away.

When I realized that people were what mattered most to us, everything fell into place. Circumstances willing, I think our next move will be back East, close to my family. I want our children to grow up with my best friend and their new grandmother in their lives, and I want them to see Matt’s mom more often. I hate the cold, the memories that haunt me and the cost of living in New York, but being near the people who matter most is what’s most important, and thanks to a job opportunity and some Southern bigots, I’ve figured it out.