Tacoma glass teaches lesson in resiliency

Katie Madison is one of six reader columnist for The News Tribune
Katie Madison is one of six reader columnist for The News Tribune TNT

Yesterday I stood alone and stared at my reflection, a young girl in her wedding gown in an empty bridal showroom. As a recent transplant from Florida to the Tacoma area, I know very few people and am still adjusting to my surroundings.

After a hilariously feeble attempt at parallel parking along the street and getting lost walking to the boutique, I finally busted in 20 minutes late.

When I was younger I always wanted to escape my small, hometown bubble in Connecticut, so I flew off to college in Florida. My impatience met perfect timing with the introduction of my now-fiancé, and it wasn’t long before I found myself in Mississippi by his side.

Almost as soon as I learned my way around town without a GPS, he was re-stationed to Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

I’ve always thought I was mature for my age, but it wasn’t until my fiancé’s career took precedence over our decisions that I really grew up. When the military sends its service members where they are needed, spouses go too, because they committed to someone who committed to the military first.

But it’s not with regret or resentment by any means; it is with courage and gusto that you pack your home and make a new one. Still, sometimes in the haze of constant change, we just simply yearn for things that breed familiarity.

I quickly realized that the best way for me to be a successfully assimilated military spouse was to pour myself into my surroundings instead of block myself off from the new. After trying on my wedding dress by myself and sensing the nag of loneliness creep into my head, I acted.

Almost without thinking, I pulled my car into drive, spent three hours inching out of my parallel parking spot while making unintelligible grunts, and drove to the Museum of Glass in downtown Tacoma.

I meandered towards the gallery glistening with flawlessly crafted pieces depicting memories and emotions in glass. I walked among the exhibits, and was calmed by how familiar certain pieces were.

A frosted clam shell intertwined in barnacles reminded me of walking along a Florida beach with my family, searching for seashells to display in our home.

Intricately designed glass plates shined with color, bringing me to my grandmother’s china cabinet in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.

I ambled through the gallery and stumbled into a spacious theater, where I sat in the back row and watched videos interviewing the artists on display. Each one explained their art as forms in motion, ever changing and constantly moving.

Their artistic intentions resonated with me, a young girl who always wanted something new but could never release the significance of what she was used to. I was back in Connecticut, a senior in high school, researching colleges that were a plane flight away.

As a final stop on my museum trip, I wandered into the Hot Shop where I experienced live glassmaking. For the first time at the museum, nothing I was seeing reminded me of anything or anywhere else. I was completely engrossed in the uniqueness of that moment, and I did not want to be anywhere else.

On my drive home, I began thinking over the day’s events. I thought about the glasswork, and the drive that went behind each piece. The artists spent hours and days creating something that looked like it was always in motion, something that was fluid and flexible and resisted stagnancy.

If artists can manipulate glass to assume that personality, I can mold myself and adapt to my surroundings, too. Better yet, I can fall in love with my environment and be mesmerized by situations unique to where I am.

I still need some work with parallel parking, but I won’t mind getting lost and having to explore this city every once in a while.

Katie Madison of Spanaway is a soon-to-be-military wife and one of six new reader columnists writing for this page in 2017. Reach her by email at katiemadison1313@gmail.com or visit her blog kmadsblog.wordpress.com