Monday, July 8, 2019

A Sunday Walk

 I walk through quiet Sunday gray, my neighborhood awakening around me. A newspaper flutters on a front porch, a vestige of times gone by. I wonder how many papers are still delivered in West Seattle.

Tom sat at the kitchen table each morning, the newspaper spread before him. I complained about the stacks of advertisements collecting on the floor, about the newsprint dirtying the tabletop. He switched to The New Yorker, The Smithsonian. Now he reads his phone.

The black and white cat sits preening herself on the block she owns. Fearless and proud, she expects traffic to stop for her, pedestrians to pay her mind. When I walk my daughter’s dog, I avoid this block.

We never had cats, not even a barn cat to control the mice. Always dogs, but what good was a dog for catching mice? My mother – or was it my father? – didn’t like cats. Now I am not fond of them either.

A motorcycle roars down Charlestown hill, a slight slow at the stop sign, no stop at all. The bright red streak flashes before me, shaking me from my morning musings.

The hill where Dad once flipped his Harley. Going up, not down, on ice. The hill high school graduates paint every June now reads Class of 2019 in colorful joy. What did it read the year my father graduated?

Madison Middle School towers on the hillside above me. The 2005 renovation to the stately 1929 building began the year after our daughter moved on to high school. I trace the track and circle the building as I climb, catching my breath under the giant tree at the top of the hill.

Images of Erin and her friends float by, teenyboppers full of youthful sass and energy. Getting into trouble, finding their way out of trouble, discovering who they were, who they would become.

I continue walking and soon West Seattle High School looms large along California Avenue. Built in 1917, the Neo-renaissance building retains much of its architectural charm after an extensive remodel, completed in 2002. A year later, Erin followed her grandfather’s footsteps by attending his alma mater.

I see my father in faded photographs, football tucked under his elbow. He wears a leather helmet and a cocky grin, a dark curl hangs forward. Black and white photography does no justice to his brilliant blue eyes. I wonder if the trophies bearing his name are still on display.

On the opposite side of the street a new building takes up the better part of a city block. The tile work – what looks like large subway tiles – on the exterior of the new four-story structure was completed more quickly than my small bathroom.

Was it fair of me to leave the house so early, to make an escape from the dust and noise of our remodeling project? I left as my husband tested the table saw and measured his first cut of the day. I left before the confrontation with the contractor over the unacceptable tile job. I left before more tears of frustration and anger.

I wind through the gentle silence of Hiawatha Playfield, under enormous oaks, past the tennis courts and the community center. The wading pool forlorn and empty. Does the Parks Department still fill it each warm summer day? Check the water quality every few hours?

Did I take Erin often enough as a toddler? Was it a welcome summer escape during earlier remodels to our small West Seattle home? She began swimming at the YMCA so young, she seemed to outgrow the wading pool overnight. She grew up overnight.

I follow the graceful curve of Walnut Avenue. Mid block, I pause before a house my father once remodeled. A house where I lived as a child too young to remember. A house whose interior I know only through family lore and longing. It is the only house my father remodeled, preferring to build from foundation to rooftop.

I hear the echo of Tom’s angry words from the day before. “It would’ve been easier to tear the damn place down and start over.” Maybe. “We’ll get through this,” he said as I left the house. Although it is hard to believe his words of comfort, my morning walk settles my soul. 


Pamela said...

I love the interweaving of inner and outer experience/thought. Fun too to walk with you.

Celaine Charles said...

I loved reading the nostalgia mixed with current happenings. Time has a way of weaving itself back through. And walks always help settle me as well. Very nice work!

arleen said...

Thank you for your thoughts, Pamela and Celaine. Walks are a wonderful adventure, aren't they!