The second half of my first grade year took place in Seattle, Washington. I’ve never lived in a more interesting neighborhood than I did there. I asked my mom if she remembered the address so I could Google Street View the place. All she remembered was “Magnolia” and the street was “a number of some kind.” (Hey, it’s been 30 years.)
I remember we’d drive up a big hill with a bunch of stop signs to get home. Was it West Dravus Street? We drove down the alley because our driveway came up the back yard. That back yard, by the way, was the most epic any kid could ask for. It was basically a sledding hill. At least a couple hundred feet long, with three terrace steps cut into it, I’ll never forget it.
So we had a massive, park-sized backyard with a cherry tree about halfway down the side opposite the driveway. Our front yard was tiny, but the people across the street had a giant front yard with a little pond/fountain halfway down. In the winter, I remember they heated it and would sit in it like a jacuzzi.
The Seattle house was white and had a walk-out basement. Mom and dad parked under the main floor, which was partially on stilts. I’d have to go digging through old papers in the garage at my parents’ house to figure out the address, but if it’s in Magnolia – and the houses in that area look familiar – it’s probably in the $700k to $1MM price range today.
In the morning, Dad would fire up his bitchin’ 1977 Dodge Tradesman 200 van and leave for work.
Oh man. Dad’s Dajiban. How I wish I had it today. It was a reddish brown metallic with subtle stripes, rolling brushed slot mags, the Mopar V8 (318 or 360ci, I don’t remember) exhaling through polished side pipes.
It totally had “old van interior smell” even when it was barely ten years old. Plush, velour seats (captains up front, reclining bench across the back, naturally) and deep, wine red, shag carpet rounded out the foundation, while the ceiling featured intricately carved, solid wood trim and mood lighting. I’ll never forget the little stained glass lights on the walls either side that rear bench.
Whenever we’d PCS (permanent change of station, the United States Army’s version of a job transfer), the movers would come to the house, pack everything up, and haul it to our new hometown. Then my brother and I would take turns riding with Mom in the Plymouth Reliant (K-car!) and Dad in the van.
This was before we had internet or smart phones or even TVs in our vehicles. About the only thing you could do on a multi-day, one-way road trip was stretch out and read a book or play with your Matchbox cars or just stare out the window at the scenery. Obviously, my brother and I always wanted to ride in the big van.
I believe it was on our way to Seattle when when mom put the K-car into a ditch. I was sitting in the backseat, maybe in a seat belt, maybe not – this was the 80s, after all. Mom was following Dad and my little brother climbed up on the backseat in the van, opened the rear window – the kind you pop open from the bottom – and stuck his arm out to wave to us.
It was a little icy, so Mom’s urgently stepping on the brakes to avoid hitting the child who would surely fall out the back window (a relative impossibility, of course) resulted in a slide and our promptly getting stuck in the snow on the shoulder.
After a few minutes in the van, collectively calming down, a tow truck came along, pulled the K-car out of the ditch, and we were back on our way – with me in the van and my brother in the Reliant.
An annoying trend
We only lived in Seattle for six months or so. It was the first of several experiences being somewhere known for a famous landmark I never visited. First was the Space Needle. There’s probably an observation deck up there somewhere for tourists, but I’ve always remembered it for having a fine restaurant and being home to the Wheedle. Yeah. Never saw either.
I also never visited Mount Rainier or Mount Saint Helens. We were on our way to Rainier one day in the Dajiban, but the transmission gave out on the climb before we even entered the park. I could see Rainier’s snow-capped peak from the kitchen while I was eating breakfast every day, though, so I guess it is what it is.
. . .
/ Didn’t realize it’d been almost two weeks since the last installment. Sorry about that. Big things going on over at Adventurist Life these days. A Kickstarter is coming.