Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Seattle Rains Remembered

My husband, Phil, brought home a memo from work, the Owner of the company he was employed with was asking for help in the home office during upcoming staff vacations. Was I interested?  "If I could work in downtown Seattle again for a couple of weeks, sure!"

Seattle would be a long bus ride from our home in Marysville, but I looked forward to helping out, however briefly, just to be in Seattle again. I used to work in downtown Seattle as a young woman, and memories from my childhood and youth, make this a happy return.

The Metro bus rolled past many old friends in the dark morning. Even in the rainy dawn, I spot favorite restaurants I visited with friends, many years past. Some of the older buildings are sporting “facelifts”, but I still know them.

There’s the Bank of America building. A huge oil painting, a quilt of colors I passed often as a young woman, is still on the foyer wall. The painting watched over our comings and goings, so many yesterdays ago.

My former SeaFirst co-worker's faces come to mind; John, Brigid, Barry, Wanda; we spent our days researching stock dividends, and processing bond trades, in the trust department. My favorite manager, “P.J.”, always cheerful with her quick smile.

We'd barely notice the large "quilt" painting as we passed; there was only a few minutes for lunch. We weren't paid a lot, but we were dedicated employees, and worked hard. Today, the painting winks at me through the glass, as the bus accelerates through the traffic.

There is the Seattle Library fountain, where my dad and mom would read to us when we were children. Sitting together on the sun warmed concrete bench nearby, they'd read the books chosen from the tall, downtown library stacks. Pigeons would flutter around us, and listen at our feet.

Later, when I worked at SeaFirst, I'd often cross the street to spend my lunch near the fountain, pigeons would land near my lunch bag, familiar, and nearly tame.

As I watch the fountain play through my bus windows' glare, I recall my father, reading to us. My sisters, Martha and Randi are laughing, as we watch our little brother, David, splashing in the fountain. It makes a musical backdrop to dad’s voice. Martha and David, Mom and Dad are gone these many years, victims of a boating accident while I was still in high school at Nathan Hale.

The new library building has moved the fountain to a place in the afternoon sun. As my bus passes by,  I feel relieved. The fountain still echoes my family's voices.

My feet are tired from tramping up and down the streets. It feels good to walk up the steep sidewalks of University and Pike. My heart is pounding, while a cool Seattle breeze from the waterfront blows my coat open. The seagull’s cry sends me back into decades past.

How could I ever leave Seattle? The horn blasts from the Bremerton ferry, and another memory stirs; pulling a blanket tightly around my siblings, we're on the upper deck, watching the green waters churn into silvery froth behind the stern. Our family would power away from the city, towards the Ozette wilderness, our annual summer destination.

The Pike Place Market fishmongers still sing and laugh back and forth.  They'd toss a huge salmon to dad, and he'd snatch it out of the air, glistening with freshness. He never missed.

My mom's high heels, clicking along the purple glass tiles in the sidewalk, my hand clasped tightly in hers, held above my head, as she'd hurry to catch a bus. Her black hair shining, my strawberry blond curls bouncing on my neck. I tried to make my legs longer.

I brought my daughters to view Seattle from the top of the Smith Tower. My oldest child, Shannon, held onto her little sister's stroller, we ride the same elevator I rode with my mother, when she showed me the "World’s Fair” city, when I was small.

Phil and I would spend a day going to Pioneer Square, grab a streetcar back up Alaskan Way, walk up the stairs to the Market, and catch the Monorail back to the Center. There's still a crowd in front of Pier 54. Childhood  visits to Ivar's, he'd personally sing us a song, then ask, “How was dinner tonight?”

My dad was the organist for the University Congregational Church, and after playing for the Choir’s Christmas Midnight Service, we’d drive downtown to see The Bon Marche's Christmas Star. The streets would be empty, as the Christmas windows played carols for our idling car, full of drowsy children. We’d fall asleep, just before Mom and Dad turned for home.
Today my calves ache as I reach for more files to put away. I haven't done this much speed-walking on Seattle’s forty-five degree hills for years. The phone rings only occasionally, most everyone in the office is on vacation this week and next.

I think of winter memories from the distant past; mom’s spare change spent on Frango chocolates for each of us. Once she fastened a live, small, bright green anole lizard, from Woolworth's, to my coat collar with a red ribbon.

Each droplet of Seattle rain spills another memory. I snug up my coat, and wrap my scarf around my neck, waiting for the bus. Seagulls circle above, calling after me.
My brief holiday season fill-in at the Dexter Avenue office is done. Childhood memories of sitting with my big sister, Una, on the steps of the Seattle Public Library, and later bike trips by ferry to Bainbridge, with college friends, briefly shine through the fog of passing years.

Seattle memories, held in cement, glass, and water.

My Seattle.
Stacey Mayer Webmaster,

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