A Trip North

A brief Anchorage visit in May stepped back in time to a part of spring we’re long past here. Because our older son bought our house after we moved to Washington, the trip also stepped back to the life that house contained.

Seattle is full of such houses – a story and a half with trees and a sidewalk out front – but not Anchorage, which inclines more toward subdivision split-levels or McMansions. The house protected me from weather in the far north and allowed me roots and regular life after a nomadic childhood. It was a privilege to separate gradually from that little house, but the shuffle required infinite patience from our son and his wife of less than a year. I am grateful.

Once I walked through our old neighbor’s house after they moved away, rooms hollow and echoing but a clean slate for the new person. Thirty years ago I found green shag carpeting, sky-blue walls, salmon-pink kitchen cupboards, and empty rooms in my old house. My daughter-in-law has now inherited the patina and clutter of many years.

All of which needs to be cheerfully, enthusiastically obliterated. The process has begun, and the more the young people make it their house, and the happier they are, the more relaxed I am. Any mistakes remaining are mine – like the oil paint so hard to cover and a garden full of overly enthusiastic groundcovers.

I admire my daughter-in-law for many things, including her willingness to tackle this fraught situation. (“There’s that word again,” she would say.)

It’s a 40s-flavored house and it might not suit forever, but its location in a friendly neighborhood, within walking distance to offices, a new bakery, and bike trails might outweigh its baggage for now.

I love to observe the changing particulars as the house begins to reflect its new family. The animals are back to full strength – two rescued orange tabbies (named Cromwell and Wolsey) joined a beloved good-natured dog. The young people have wonderful plans for a modern “heart of the home” kitchen.

We dealt with more leftovers this trip. Dividing the decades-long accumulation of cookie cutters with my daughter-in-law was a happy moment for me – sharing the decisions – dog for you, flower for me, four hearts means two each, a star for both. Dividing angels and gingerbread people, jack o’lantern, cowboy boot, owl and chick and four-leaf clover. Dinosaurs – four kinds we could name by working together. Hammer and saw stayed in Anchorage for the remodel – a teapot and dove of peace came south.

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