回家的方向

在窮鄉僻壤長大的我,以為可以在麥當勞找到快樂,殊不知真正重要的事物就在自家後院 Elisabeth Fairfield Stokes◎撰 from eater.com

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Illustration by Claire Fletcher

一直到我六歲前,我和家人都住在阿拉斯加育空堡,一個剛進入北極圈的偏遠村落。社區居民約六百人,大多是桂欽亞大巴斯卡族人。我們是白人家庭,雙親在當地傳教。家父是荒野飛行員,也是河畔那座木造教堂的牧師。

育空堡沒有自來水,但有電視,而且每年都會播一次《綠野仙蹤》。劇中桃樂西能夠從鄉下乏味的家來到充滿奇蹟的燦爛魔法王國,這種本領教我瞠目結舌。我可以理解桃樂西的感覺,有一次我在前往南邊一百四十公里費班克市的飛機上,甚至飛越了一道彩虹。在我眼裏,奧茲國無論存在的樣貌或意義,都不折不扣描繪了我們那個小鎮以外的世界。

另一個讓我體會到育空堡外真實世界的東西,就是麥當勞。只要一看到麥當勞的電視廣告,我的臉就簡直要貼到螢幕上去。儘管我們家的電視機是黑白的,我卻看得出來那裏面有鮮豔的色彩。我會審視每一個微小的細節,想要知道生活在有麥當勞的地方是什麼樣字:那兒有陽光和歡樂的音樂,食物會像禮物一樣裝在特別的包裝紙與盒子裏,屋前有鋪設平整的路面和草坪。那兒從來不會發生壞事,沒有人覺得冷,沒有人受傷,沒有人死亡。他們有抽水馬桶和熱水,他們有麥當勞,而且因為有這些,他們時時幸福快樂。

只要我們去費班克,幾乎鐵定會光顧麥當勞。我的標準菜色是漢堡、薯條和草莓奶昔。通常漢堡我頂多只吃一、兩口,也沒辦法在冷掉前把薯條全吃完,但我一定會喝光奶昔,那味道就跟刮刮聞香書上的草莓一樣。

但其實食物根本不重要。進了麥當勞,就表示我人在大到足以擁有麥當勞的城市,置身電視上所看到的世界。這個世界和我在育空堡所見的一點也不像;育空堡有的是木屋前面綁着狗隊,小徑穿過茂密的雲杉林,大河平穩流過。但我想,只要我能融入麥當勞,就能融入更大的世界。一直到我離開育空堡,才明白這想法一點也不真實。不管在哪裏,人生都是艱辛的;如果你以為自己沒有麥當勞不會快樂,那麼即使有了麥當勞,你也不會快樂。

搬家到費班克之後,我們就不再常去麥當勞了。我記得自己並不在意,因為我很快就了解費班克的人去麥當勞只是圖方便,而非具有特別意義;大家是因為去不了更好的餐廳才去那裏。我的心思轉移到其他更刺激好玩的事物上,譬如可以吃到優格;可以喝到鮮奶而不是沖泡奶粉;可以去讓觀光客荷包大失血的遊樂場阿拉斯加樂園。

雖然在費班克有這些新發現的樂趣,但要不了多久,我的思鄉之情就發作了。我想念育空堡燃燒木頭的味道,想念北極圈沉沉斜射的光線,想念每個人都彼此相識。我想念所的朋友都住在徒步可達的範圍,我想念村子裏的老奶奶,她們疼愛所有的孩子,視如己出。

十六歲時我參加校外教學,到阿拉斯加的州治朱諾市旅遊。一天晚上,我躺在青年旅館的上下鋪上,聽到對面有紙張沙沙作響的聲音。我仔細一瞧,看到一個女孩正打開麥當勞漢堡的包裝紙大快朵頤;她來自桑德波恩特市,那地方位於偏遠的阿留申羣島。

這趟旅行我們的伙食很好,所以我知道她並不餓。但我也知道她為何吃那漢堡,還有雞塊和薯條,還有奶昔。她住的地方買不到麥當勞。

這讓我回想起住在育空堡時的心情,當年光是走進麥當勞仰望頭上的菜單,睜大眼睛看着各種三明治從後方廚房的金屬滑道滑至前方櫃檯,就讓我激動不已。

我也想念光是去麥當勞的念頭就教我興奮莫名的時光。那段時光已一去不復返,卻沒有事物能真正取代。如今,我就住在奧茲國,對生活在荒郊野外的孩子來說,這裏就是麥當勞象徵的世界。我們住在有草坪的房子裏,所有的食物都是從一家商店買回來的。麥當勞不再重要。

就是因為這樣,躺在青年旅館的上下鋪上,偷偷望着那來自桑德波恩特的女孩,我不由地感到悲傷。她一定得擁有麥當勞許諾的那種愉悅、那種樂趣。她一定得回家,回到桑德波恩特,回到和育空堡沒什麼兩樣的村莊。我卻回不了家,不論我多麼渴望。我的家在育空堡和費班克之間的蒼穹。我是白人,卻長於阿拉斯加原住民村莊;她的價值觀和社羣意識形塑了我,我卻離開了。

如今,我不再住在阿拉斯加,我的孩子從沒吃過麥當勞。我也認為他們長到這麼大,從來沒有任何事物具備當年麥當勞對我的意義。他們不曾在沒有自來水、沒有電力的地方生活過。我帶他們回過育空堡一次,那時他們還很小。我們沿着塵土飛揚的道路漫步;我們站在河畔;我推他們盪着可能是我五歲時盪過的同一座秋千。他們愛育空堡;他們也覺得在那兒很快樂。在返回費班克的路上,我們飛越了一道彩虹。


Homeward Bound

Until I was six, my family lived just above the Arctic Circle, in the remote village of Fort Yukon, Alaska. It is a community of about 600 people, predominantly Gwich’in Athabascan. My family is white – my parents were there as missionaries, my father a bush pilot and the priest-in-charge at the log church by the river.

We didn’t have running water in Fort Yukon, but we had a TV, and The Wizard of Oz was broadcast once a year.

I was transfixed by Dorothy’s ability to travel from her dull, rural home to a shining, magical kingdom filled with wonders. I could relate to Dorothy, had even once flown over a rainbow on the way into Fairbanks, 140 km to the south. To me, Oz perfectly illustrated the world beyond our tiny town, what it was, what it meant.

The other thing that taught me about the real world outside Fort Yukon was McDonald’s. I’d nearly press my nose to the screen whenever a commercial for McDonald’s came on. Even though our TV set was black and white, I could tell there were brilliant colours. I would scan it for every tiny detail about what life was like when you lived somewhere where there was a McDonald’s: sunshine, happy music, food wrapped up like presents in special papers and boxes, houses with pavements and lawns. Nothing bad ever happened there. No-one was cold, no-one got hurt, no-one died. They had flush toilets and hot water, and they had ­McDonald’s, and they were happy all the time because of it.

Whenever we went into Fairbanks, a visit to McDonald’s was almost guaranteed. My standard order was a hamburger, fries and a strawberry shake. I almost never took more than a bite or two of the hamburger, and I couldn’t eat all my fries before they got cold, but I always finished my shake, which tasted the way the strawberry in one of my scratch ’n sniff books smelled.

But the truth is, the food hardly even mattered. Being at McDonald’s meant that I was in a city big enough to have one, that I was in the world I saw on TV. That world looked nothing like what I saw in Fort Yukon: log cabins with dog teams tied out front, trails through the scrubby black spruce, the big river steadily flowing by. But if I could fit in at McDonald’s, I could fit into the bigger world, I thought. It took leaving Fort Yukon for me to understand that none of this was true, that life is hard everywhere, that if you thought you weren’t happy without McDonald’s, you wouldn’t be happy with it.

After my family moved to Fairbanks, we didn’t go to McDonald’s much any more. I don’t remember minding. McDonald’s, I soon learned, was convenient for people in Fairbanks more than it was special. People ate there if they couldn’t go to nicer restaurants. I focused instead on the thrill of getting to eat things like yoghurt, drinking fresh milk instead of powdered, getting to go to Alaskaland, a playground and tourist trap.

Despite the newfound pleasures of Fairbanks, it didn’t take long for homesickness to set in. I missed the woodsmoky way Fort Yukon smells, the way the light slants hard up on the Arctic Circle, the way everyone knows everyone else. I missed the way all my friends lived within reach. I missed the village grandmas, who loved all children as if they were their own.

When I was 16, I went on a school trip to Juneau, the state capital. I was lying in a bunk bed in the youth hostel one night, when I heard paper rustling across the way. I looked over to see a girl from Sand Point, out on the Aleutian chain, unwrapping a McDonald’s hamburger and eating it.

I knew she wasn’t hungry: they’d been feeding us well on this trip. But I also understood why she was eating that hamburger, and the chicken nuggets and fries she had, too, and the shake. She couldn’t get McDonald’s where she lived.

It made me remember what it felt like to live in Fort Yukon, a time when I, too, would have found intense pleasure in just entering a McDonald’s, tilting my head up to see the menu overhead, eyes wide at the way the various sandwiches slid down their metal chutes from behind the wall that separated the counter from the kitchen.

I also missed how excited I used to get at just the thought of going to McDonald’s. It was gone, but nothing had really replaced it. I lived in Oz now, in the world McDonald’s had symbolised for a kid from the bush. We lived in a house with a lawn. We got all our food from a store. McDonald’s didn’t matter.

That’s why, surreptitiously watching that girl from Sand Point as we lay in our hostel bunk beds, I was sad. She got to have the pleasure, the fun of what McDonald’s promised. She got to go back home, back to Sand Point, a village not too different from Fort ­Yukon. I couldn’t go home, no matter how much I wanted to. Home was somewhere in the air between Fort Yukon and Fairbanks. I was white, but from an Alaska Native village. I had grown up formed by its values, its sense of community, and then I left.

I don’t live in Alaska any more. My kids have never eaten at a McDonald’s, and I don’t think they have anything in their lives that means, or meant, what McDonald’s once meant to me. They’ve never lived without running water, without electricity. I took them back to Fort Yukon once, when they were very small. We walked along the dusty roads, we stood by the river, I pushed them on what might have been the very same swings that held me when I was five. They loved it; they were happy there, too. And on the way back to Fairbanks, we flew over a rainbow.

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