Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Finding Home: 47th Avenue War Box



The afternoon was winter gray in Seattle. The realtor told us there'd be no For Sale sign posted. The house had only just been listed, but he'd meet us there and show us around. We pulled to a stop in front of a house that held the address we'd been given. There wasn't a tree or bush in the sloping front yard, red paint peeled from the front steps, and what I was yet to learn was asbestos siding blanketed the house in a faded pinkish hue.

I didn't want to get out of the car and walk to the front door. It was just that unappealing. "Not a chance," I said. "At least we have trees."

"Come on," Tom said. "It can't be all bad. Besides, he's expecting us."

I forced myself out of the car and trudged up the boring straight sidewalk behind him. We'd already been priced out of one house and were struggling to find anything at all affordable even close to our neighborhood. I was depressed and eager to just give up. The cottage was small, but we could make do.

The front door looked like I could stick my fist through it. I wasn't impressed. Not until I stepped into the living room. The house was on a knoll and built into a hillside, so the front was five feet off the ground with windows, big windows. In fact every room had at least two windows on different walls. The house was flooded with light, and I fell hard.
We were, and still are, the second owners of this humble 1941 war box. The house is not at the top of Genesee Hill like our cottage, but it an easy walk to the West Seattle Junction.

When we made an offer on the house twenty-four years ago, the Junction was struggling. There seemed to be more empty store fronts than thriving businesses. We weren't at all sure we were making a sound decision, but the house and yard had good bones and loads of potential.
When our offer was accepted, we were thrilled.

When we finally got the keys - buying from an estate shared by seven siblings took months - we got a babysitter and spent the night on the living room floor in front of the fireplace.

When our romantic fire filled our new house with smoke, we learned the chimney needed work.
When the furnace wouldn't come on, we snuggled together determined not to let a lack of heat in the house deter our happiness.

Our house was not immediately a home. That took time. It took remodeling, repurposing, and making the space our own. It took planting trees and fencing the yard to keep our toddler safe. It took getting to know our neighbors, walking the neighborhood, and frequenting the local businesses. But most of all, it took understanding and accepting my own personal history, settling into my own skin. And that took writing.

Journals, kept since my teen years, led to memoir, and memoir led to fiction. Writing, and then publishing, gave me a tool to find self and voice, to understand who I am, and to accept the circuitous journey I've taken to find home.

4 comments:

Jack said...

This is a nice article, Arleen. Helen lived just a short distance from this place when her dad worked at Boeing during the war. Nostalgia. Especially the furnace not working and the fireplace jammed up.
this whole series has been exemplary.
Keep going.
J

arleen said...

Thank you, Jack. I didn't know Helen had West Seattle roots.

Betsy Bell said...

Light flooding the rooms does it every time. Beautiful. Makes me want to get that third book off my bed side table and begin right now. Betsy

arleen said...

Thanks for reading, Betsy Bell.