Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The bluest skies, sometimes

For reasons I won't go into here, I always have really mixed feelings about visiting Seattle, which I do about twice a year. I moved at the right time in my life and don't expect to move back, although that is always a possibility. I miss certain things about it, not least my family and friends, but at the same time living here again, like visiting, would be good with a generous dollop of weird.

I took Auletta to Northgate Mall--which has changed so much! And Alderwood--virtually unrecognizable. But, anyway, Auletta threw a tantrum, fortunately just as the mall was opening and the only people there were seniors getting their exercise where it was dry, and no doubt many of them have had their own children who had public tantrums, as two ladies assured me. I'm sure I did. And it's possible my dad did too, since he was a toddler when Northgate opened. Does this make me feel old, or young?

I went into work with my sister today so I could take her car for the day. Auletta fell asleep in the car, so I sat for a while after we got home. Listened to the birds. How there is a symphony of Northwestern birds (nondescript brown things when you look at them) that makes this place sound different from anywhere else I've ever lived, where bugs shout in summer and winters are eerily silent.

It snowed early one morning and the flakes were enormous. I have never seen them that big, but here it happens often, with the temperature barely freezing. Snowflakes roll together into little cotton balls in the sky and drift downward, making snowfall appear more substantial in the air than on the warm ground, although this winter there was a lot of snow.

The P-I printed its final paper. What will happen to the globe? So little history here, and yet we cling to these pieces of it, the R on the Rainier Brewery, the glue pot that started the fire. I remember the Bubblator; someone's using it as a greenhouse now.

Every time we drive past the Ida Culver house on Greenwood, where my grandmother spent the last few years of her life, I feel like we should stop. My life in this city lacks something at its center, with my grandparents gone. I looked up their house on Google Earth and got down to street level; it's been entirely renovated and looks nothing like the retro-but-modern 1949 building my great-aunt designed. Seattle came of age at an awkward stage for the country in general, but something in me loves the Space Needle and my grandparents' house and other things that seem quaintly non-postmodern modern now. Modernity without the sense of irony that I cultivated growing up in Seattle a couple of decades later.

My great-great-grandfather moved to the Northwest in the late nineteenth century, which means my ancestors have lived here for most of the time that there have been whites here at all. My great-grandmother was the first of four generations in our family to attend the university. When the campus on Montlake was first established, the bookstore was in a coat closet in Denny Hall. The bookstore! I went there with Justin for the first time in years. I have gone there for as long as I can remember. I remember I used to peel the glue off the price tags and roll it into sticky little balls. Hmm, I was kind of a gross kid. You can't do that with price tags they've used at least since I was in college; I've tried. I haven't ventured on campus, I mean east of 15th, on this trip. I'm afraid my head would explode. I don't know how I can spend a total of seven years, plus lots of childhood excursions, in that place, and never go now. But I don't know how I can spend the first 26 years of my life in a city that I now visit so rarely.


Helene said...

We missed you again! You'll have to let me know the next time you plan to be in town. I'd love to finally meet Auletta in person. :)

Deanna said...

I haven't been to campus in at least a couple of years. I keep telling myself that we'll take the kids to see the cherry blossoms. And then it rains, and the blossoms are gone.

With Eric probably going to be back on the Eastside working again, the only time I'm going to get into the city is to see baseball games or shop at Uwajimaya.

Juliet said...

Helene--I will let you know when we come back! I don't think I've missed a summer since I moved away, but it's getting harder to travel with Auletta so I think our visits might become less frequent.

Deanna, if you can make it all the way to Chinatown, you can make it to campus! By the way, my sister took me to the old Larry's Market at Oak Tree, which is now a huge Asian market. That was another thing that almost made my head explode--but anyway, that's a little closer to your neck of the woods and they might have a lot of the same things, although there's nothing like going to Uwajimaya.