Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A Sunday afternoon in January

We were all recovering from viruses, had been stuck in the house all day. Ed was in the office, sorting through the rubble of the Seahawks playoff loss.

Tired of being inside, I lifted our house arrest. I fumbled through a drawer to find a Starbucks gift card left over from the holidays. We climbed into our rain gear.

The outside air felt heavy. We trudged out the door through the layer of gray and gloom. It was three o'clock in the afternoon, which meant dusk on a rainy, winter PNW day. We headed down to the lake and then walked the familiar and calming half mile along the shore to the Starbucks. Noé avoided dogs as usual. When two giant huskies came toward him on the trail he backed himself up to the edge of the lake to avoid them, almost falling in.

Entering the Starbucks, we let ourselves absorb the warmth and coffee goodness. I quickly found a corner table. Asher instinctively let Noé sit down ahead of him so he was trapped between the table and his chair, and thus unable to wander the restaurant or sample food and drinks off other people's tables. I got up to order our hot chocolates and baked goods, keeping half an eye on our table. I noticed the guy seated across from the boys, giving Noé a one up and then looking at me. I gave him my involuntary, don't-mess-with-us side glance. I couldn't decide if it was warranted….if he was just figuring out Noé and his constant rocking and his hand full of ribbon, or if he was annoyed we had sat next to him and messed up his laptop-on-the-table-and-iPod-in-the-ears zen.

I set the food and drinks down on the table and immediately noticed Noe's hands, which had turned black somewhere between home and Starbucks. I smuggled him into the women's restroom to clean up and we sat back down.  Two sips of hot chocolate later, half of Noé's hot chocolate was on his vest. Feeling thankful we went with the waterproof outerwear, I ran over to grab napkins. All wiped up, we settled back down into our snack, and I then noticed the photo above us.

It was an oversized black and white photo of the swimming area at Green Lake, located right across the street from where we sat. The photo was dated 1936. The focal point of the photo was a wooden diving platform. Teenagers swarmed it like honeybees, a few frozen mid-dive off the highest platform. The boys wore European-style swim bottoms and the girls were in modest one-pieces and frilly swim caps. All looked really thin, perhaps the Depression showing on their bones.

I pointed out the photo to Asher and told him that when it was taken, his great-grandpa (aka grandpa-by-the-train) was also a teenager, living in Portland, skiing Mt Hood and taking day trips to Seaside. The photo felt full of youth and energy. I tried to picture my own grandparents in that photo. Eighty years later, my grandparents are well into their nineties, feeling their age, and writing the final paragraphs of their well-lived lives. Most likely, many of the teenagers in that photo have already passed away.

We finished our treats and headed back toward the lake for our walk home. I pictured the teenagers in that photo swimming on the lake, just as we do each summer. We've only lived in this neighborhood for three years, but the boys have grown considerably under the watchful eye of the lake and the protective canopy of the trees surrounding it. I feel so blessed to have this beautiful place as the static and dependable background of their formidable years.

(Click here for the 1936 Green Lake photo we saw at our neighborhood Starbucks)

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