Today is my sister Tia’s first day of school in many years. I think she’s excited; I know I’m excited for her.
Today is her first day as the new business manager of the Gunnison Watershed School District. She’s going to be a busy bee for awhile, because she’s easing part-time into her new job while transitioning out of her current work with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (budget and policy analyst). Once she has been successfully replaced at CPW, in a month or two, she will be three-quarters time with the school district for about a year, until her son Justin graduates high school in Arvada. Then she and husband Don will both move back to Gunnison and she’ll be full-time with the school district.
This is actually the third time Tia has been offered a job with the school district, the second time this particular job has been offered to her. (She was also offered a position as the elementary guidance counselor, once upon a time.) But this is the first time she’s accepted the offer, and she hesitated once more before accepting it this time.
Time is the key, or timing. Many years ago, Tia and and her husband Don bought property in (there’s really no “in”) Parlin, a town/wide spot/ZIP code on the highway 14 miles east of Gunnison. Their intention has been, ever since, to move back here, but the thought has always been that this would most likely happen once both their kids got through high school.
They did contemplate it — which is when Tia first applied for school district jobs, well over a decade ago — but this thing or that held them back both times, and they stayed put in Arvada. But the intention has always been to come back, and although the timing for this most recent job opening was off by a year, they felt Tia should go ahead and apply.
Here’s the funny thing about all this: when she was in high school, here in Gunnison, Tia was moving way far away and never looking back. She was going to work in the fashion industry in New York City — so long, Gunnison.
Of course, none of us should be held to the standards we planned for in high school, but it did surprise me when Tia first started talking about wanting to move back.
Let’s pause here for a moment to discuss my mother’s prescience. When I was in utero, my mother found the name she would give me from a character in a book. And I am the writer in the family. Terri’s name came from an Olympic swimmer, and she is the athlete, albeit a trifle banged-up one these days. And Tia — “aunt” in Spanish — got her name from Miss Colorado. She was our socialite, all the way through her early college years.
She’s still social and active, but starting back when she transferred from Colorado State to the University of Denver, the plans for a fashion lifestyle (both in her focus on her own wardrobe and career plans) fell by the wayside, replaced by something we might — without intending to insult fashion — refer to as a more studious choice.
At DU, she was the “outstanding senior” in international studies, and then she moved to Maryland to pursue a master’s in public policy, emphasis in finance. Emphasis in finance? Where on Earth did that come from? But she’s done very well in a series of jobs with Colorado government, and in the news bulletin sent out by her new boss to the rest of the school district (I still have my sources), she oversaw a $230 million budget when she was with the judicial department.
This is my little sister, who, when I was home on winter break from college and trying to sleep in, thought I should get up and give her a ride to high school. “You can walk,” I told her groggily. “I can’t — my feet will get wet,” she replied. “Wear boots,” I advised. “Those aren’t fashionable,” she informed me. I probably ended up giving her a ride.
This is also my sister who dated ever-taller and ever-more exotic men, including one from the Ivory Coast, only to end up marrying a high school classmate not much taller than she is. He’s done very well in his field, too: he is a camera operator and tape editor, shooting sports events. He started on the Jumbotron at Mile-High Stadium, taking in-stadium camera shots for the Rockies. And now he jets all over the country and the world, filming Olympic events, World Cup soccer and college football games.
[One of his jobs — who knew this was a thing? — sometimes is to sit in the truck and make sure every camera angle that gets aired has the same quality of light, so your TV won’t be flickering from light to dark and back again.]
It turns out, both of these high-fliers are homebodies.
It’s funny, the pull Gunnison has on people. I never planned to be here for any length of time. I took a job at the newspaper, expecting I would move on in a year or so. That’s how journalism works: you start small and work your way big. Except one year became two became four, and at some point I started noticing the people who had left Gunnison “forever” were making their way back, taking whatever job was at hand just to be back in the valley. And I thought, why go to the trouble of going somewhere else to learn I like it here best?
Apparently Tia is one of those who feels the tug. This would-be denizen of New York City (she never got there, but she did spend several years in the D.C. area) is now looking forward to getting out of city life. She may find herself driving, still: when she came for her job interview, she drove up to Crested Butte to attend a school board meeting, and it sounds like in her first week here she’ll be going to Grand Junction for a superintendents’ meeting, but her 14-mile daily commute (once they get their house built) will likely never be snarled by traffic other than masses of deer.
And I’m hoping I might get to see her more often. She’s staying with her mother-in-law this week, but she’d like to use the Riverwalk guest cabin for her next trip back, and maybe sometime this summer she can take up periodic residence in our new guest room.
So today is her first day of school, and I hope she’s excited. I’m excited for her.