This fall marks twenty-five years of Seattle living for Big Papa and I. I moved here after a three-year stint in the San Francisco Bay area, hitting the dusty trail to head north for a Ph.D. program at the University of Washington. Big Papa, a few years younger than me, was heading across country, from Pittsburgh also to attend the University of Washington, though as an undergraduate.
It still amazes me that the studio apartment I lived in, on the corner of University Parkway and Brooklyn Avenue was literally across the street from the dorm where Big Papa resided. It is certainly possible we passed each other on the street as we hoofed it over to campus. Oh the irony.
Of course, it took us twenty years cavorting around the same streets to find each other. At that time, Big Papa had bought the Urban Cabin in central Seattle and, wouldn’t you know it, my apartment happened to be barely a mile down the road.
That we both hailed from the east coast, me from central New York State and Big Papa from western Pennsylvania just one state to the south and both from small towns just outside former “rust belt” cities (me: Syracuse; Big Papa: Pittsburgh) is another small world coincidence of our history and long journey which finally landed us in the in the same city, in the same house and married to each other.
On a clear day, when I leave our house, I can see mountains to the west and mountains to the east. Mountains! For a girl raised in low rolling hills and expansive meadows dotted with dairy farms, the landscape here is as dramatic as the 3,000 miles I traveled to start my life as an independent adult.
Like a salmon who returns to the stream where it was born, there will always be a bit of the east coast nestled solidly in my soul. In the fall, when the maple trees on our street turn brilliant hues of red, my mind always wanders to memories of upstate New York hillsides covered in color. I do miss the abundance of old 18th century homes, painted white with black shutters and red doors, gentle pastoral views, thunderstorms, small towns steeped in history and the great deals that could be found in some out of the way antique store in the tiny hamlets and villages that are so common where I grew up.
But after twenty-five years, the smell of salt air wafting up from Puget Sound, the looming presence of Mt. Rainier, the mountain-filled vistas, the salmon and the orcas call my name too, and I find it hard to imagine not living here. A part of who I am will always be from where I grew up, and it will rest side-by-side with the part of me that evolved here. Though I may not travel back and forth between two coasts, my heart is decidedly bi-coastal.
A few evenings ago, Big Papa and I sat on our bench in the garden, talking about all that has transpired for each of us in the quarter century we’ve called the Pacific Northwest ‘home.’ For both of us, our time here now exceeds the amount of time we each lived in our birth state.
We reflected on decisions made, roads taken and roads we each could have taken, but didn’t. We shared feelings of fear and regret, accomplishment and pride as we charted our milestones from the past two and a half decades. The two of us have experienced many changes, taken leaps of faith, suffered disappointments and made new discoveries about ourselves.
We talked and talked, until all the light left the sky and a few stars sparkled in darkness. Then we picked ourselves up and, with a kiss, walked up the stairs and into our home. Home sweet home, Seattle.