Close communities are best for growing teens | In The Day

The following is written by columnist Jen Anderson:

Tight-knit communities can sure take their toll on boundary-seeking teenagers. I rarely broke rules as a teenager but, when I did, my parents or someone who knew them were usually nearby to witness and/or report my wrongdoings. Or potential wrongdoings.

News of my mid-day dentist appointment in high school would reach my dad at the sales barn before I would pull in the driveway that afternoon. “(Insert name of any dairy farmer) saw you in town at noontime. What were you doing?” he would ask. After explaining my carefully scheduled appointment as not to interrupt my social life, he would give little feedback. I’m sure he later followed up with my aunt, the office manager at the dentist office, or maybe he didn’t because he knew I was telling the truth since using an alibi that included a relative’s place of business wasn’t very sneaky.

There were two days that I legitimately skipped school. Once, I decided to leave early because it was a nice afternoon and I wanted to run errands with a friend. As I was riding shotgun in her Honda Civic in the drive-through at the bank, my mom pulled up next to us. I hit the floorboard of that Civic praying she hadn’t spotted me and my friend put that little car into reverse and floored it. We sped out of the bank parking lot backward, at top speed, so we wouldn’t be seen. Very inconspicuous.

I was riddled with guilt the rest of the afternoon and when I arrived home I blurted out, “Did you see me at the bank today?” My mom explained that she had been at the bank during the school day, so of course she wouldn’t have seen me. “So was I, and I’m sorry! I won’t do it again!” Apparently, I’m not very good at being bad.

The other incident was the traditional Senior Skip, right before graduation. I can’t even remember how I spent my day, probably at the SuperMall with friends, or some other equally racy behavior.

The part that overshadows the entire act of rebellion was when my car broke down (during school hours) along the Veazie-Cumberland Road. This was prior to cell phones being permanent standard equipment in the hand of a teenager, so I got out and started walking. Then it began to rain. I heard a truck pull up next to me. I saw the fender of the tan Ford and didn’t need to see the Department of Fish and Wildlife logo on the door to know who was driving. I considered running the other way, but even worse than knowing the game warden could catch me, and probably already recognized my car, I was wearing my letterman’s jacket with my last name emblazoned across the back. Not a very good disguise.

Before he was done grilling me, my boyfriend’s dad drove up on his way home from work. He recognized the car, normally parked in his driveway five to seven nights a week, and wondered what it was doing along the road. Before I finished explaining myself to him, my grandpa pulled up behind us. Ugh. Finally, between the three of them, they were able to restart the car and lecture me about my attendance-or lack of it.

As an adult, this well-connected community has benefits that are far reaching. A few years ago, an artist and Enumclaw High School alumnus participated in a popularity contest to display his artwork atop the Space Needle. He garnered a 10,000 vote lead based heavily on “Hor-net Pow-er.” OK, his art is pretty cool, too, but Plateau people won’t get behind and campaign for just anybody.

Unfortunately, on the last day of the contest a hacker was able to eliminate that fat lead and the second-place artist was chosen as the winner. An investigation lead by a local news channel revealed the hacker’s work after the fact.

The most powerful way I’ve seen this community display its strength and ability to influence is in times of tragedy. I’ve seen it, done it and experienced it firsthand. When Plateau members are hit by tragedy they instantly have a support system like no other. Meals. Labor. Food. Prayer. Companionship. Food. Words of encouragement. Financial support. Food. You name it, someone will organize it, do it and make it happen.

People are there to feed your family, feed your cows, feed your soul and shuttle your kids around. We will wear pink. We will wear green. You won’t make it down too many aisles at Safeway without a hug or kind words from others. It’s what we do here. Whether your roots are deep or you’ve recently chosen to plug yourself into this community, someone’s got your back.

What was once so annoying as an independence-seeking teenager is one of the reasons I love living on the Plateau. I know there is a village watching out for my kids and if for some reason my life falls apart, there is an entire community willing to help pick up the pieces. If I have to face trials and tribulations, I wouldn’t want it any other way.