Sunday, March 6, 2016

The holiday letter I never wrote

A quick update on all four of us:

Ed….still works for the Seattle Times. Will this be his final year in the newspaper business? We shall see.  Earning a batch of APSE awards has renewed his energy for things like waking up at 4am every Monday to write a Seahawks column (even in the offseason!) and returning phone calls to elderly readers who want to know what channel the Huskies game will be broadcasted. The very best thing is when he returns their call and they don't remember calling him in the first place. Ed is very into podcasts these days and we are officially the old married couple barking at each other over his earbuds. He is also the token dad at hiking club (a group of mom friends and kids who hike a local spot every Monday afternoon).

Noé…is finally accepting his fate as a middle school student. The transition last fall to a new school with older kids and new expectations was pretty rough. He continues to love his Adele and Amy Winehouse and spends a lot of time after school playing their records on his record player. In his 'History of Rock and Roll' elective class at school, he introduced the class to Miles Davis after he requested Miles Davis on his iPad when the class was listening to music. His teacher found an album to play for the class and was pretty amazed that a 13 year old with severe autism knew 'Kind of Blue'. After a period of boredom and non-participation in his Keyboarding class (his other inclusion class), I emailed his teacher lyrics to all of his favorite Adele songs for him to practice typing out and Noé has eagerly attended class ever since. I just signed him up for three weeks at his favorite outdoor day camp this summer, which I tell myself is all for him, but it really is all about my own summer break sanity.

Asher…discovered a hidden passion for Star Wars when the last movie came out, after previously claiming to be "the type of kid who just isn't into Star Wars." When Asher likes something, he likes it ALL the way. We have known this since he was two years old and fell in love with trains and our lives were hijacked by Thomas the Tank Engine. He watched all the Star Wars movies in short succession, read the books, including the Origami Yoda series. His bedroom has now been transformed into a Star Wars origami production factory. He also just started another season of Ultimate Frisbee, the official spring sport in Seattle, and will start spring soccer soon as well.  At his piano recital last month, he played his song beautifully, but after he finished the song, his piano teacher, who was sitting next to me, looked over with a look of bemused shock and said, "that's not the one we practiced for tonight!"I guess you could say he's the type of kid who isn't afraid to go off script a little….

Me (Jen)… is still working at the same job I tried to quit three years ago when we moved to Seattle.  Every time I think about finding something else, I remember what I love most about it…zero commute time, the scaled-back summer hours, and the East Coast schedule which means I'm done early and can justify working in my pajamas. So basically I'm lazy. I've even figured out how to adjust the camera on my laptop so that I can video conference and no one has any idea I am wearing pajamas, as long as I remember to brush my hair. I am still also a small business owner as well, peddling LEGO robots to 2nd graders like crack cocaine. I meant to have reached a decision at this point - whether or not to grow the business into something full time and legitimate, keep it as a side gig, or let it die, but I really haven't decided its fate. The economics say go full-on, but I am tired of being up to my eyeballs in LEGOs. Plus, my heart tells me that I was truly meant to be a poor, unknown writer, and I have officially written four paragraphs of my very first book to prove it.

I think I speak for all of us when I say we continue to love the Seattle life. The city sustains us all in different ways. Noé loves hiking through the streets of the city and in its forest corridors, along with the ubiquitous water. Asher loves studying the city and figuring out ways to make it run better. Ed loves his return to urban living, and the role he has been able to play in building up a very fine sports team at the Times. For me, I love everything about PNW life and there isn't much that could tear me away from it.

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)