Thursday, October 12, 2006

Hillyard and My Coopyaya

Hillyard has a conflicting personality; on the one hand, economic hardship rides heavy on many local people, and reflects in the tired-looking homes, and graffiti-strewn alleys. And on the other, Hillyard retains a certain charm from its former glory days, still visible in its "Main Street" store fronts and antique shops. I love to explore the old buildings and imagine what they might have been, and what they might become with the proper vision and financing.

My family has a long and varied history in the Hillyard area. Up until the mid 1950s, my great grandparents lived in the pine-covered hills overlooking the town below. They essentially lived a traditional Native lifestyle just beyond the view of a quickly modernizing world. They came off the hill and took up residence in the town of Hillyard in 1956, shortly after my great grandfather passed away. My grandparents generation and my father's generation grew up in Hillyard. Many of their descendants still live nearby.

When I was a small child, I used to visit my coopyaya's house near the train tracks, east of Market Street. Her name was Lizzie Homer Moses, and she was my great grandmother. I don't remember much about her appearance, except for her pure white hair and the cane she used to help her walk. My auntie Marlene used to scare me by saying coopyaya would hit me with that cane if I misbehaved, but fortunately I never got to see that side of her personality. Coopyaya was magic in my childhood eyes. She could burn rocks (she had a coal burning stove) and if someone needed anything, she could probably find it in one of her many storage boxes. By the white man's standards, I'm sure she lived in poverty, but to me she was rich. She had everything.

Sadly, her old house is gone now.

I don't remember if coopyaya ever spoke to me directly, but somehow I knew she loved me, even if she was kind of cranky and mean at times. She died in 1976 (I was 5 years old), but sometimes she comes back in my dreams and gives me guidance and protection. Many years later, I walk the streets of Hillyard, and I remember her powerful influence on my life. Her spirit lives now in my memory.

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