The Person Inside (she says her name is Lily) traveled with me this week to our home town, Port Townsend, Washington.
I used to live here too, you know. But. . .hey, it’s kind of different. . .
She’s right. Town has changed a lot in the 45 years since she last lived here. The population has doubled and downtown is upscale posh instead of half-deserted. We stayed at Mom’s house, in my room but not my room, know what I mean? Lily went into specifics:
The only things that are mine in here are the bookshelf and the books, and that rattan cricket hanging from that cage thing in the corner, that cricket I wanted really, really bad when I was twelve. I miss the reading light that used to hang from the ceiling over the head of the bed and my lime green bedspread with huge mod flowers in electric blue and white. I mean, this handmade quilt thing is nice, but. . .
It’s been fourteen months since my last visit to Port Townsend. So much change in my world since then, even more serious than the loss of a beloved mod bedspread. The seven month mark of Bruce’s death came and went during my stay. No calls home to tell him how much I miss him. My first time away overnight since then. Three nights in a row without reading to the 4-legged kids before bed.
Well don’t get all maudlin, let’s do something fun!
Our first day we took Mom’s car on a grocery run. Lily begged me to go to the drive-through car wash, too.
Cool! It’s just like The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau!
Then we tried something really wild. We put up a post on Facebook inviting Port Townsend friends to meet us for breakfast at a local restaurant on Thursday morning, the last morning of our stay. To encourage the best possible attendance, I dared to suggest that Mom might come with us, too.
That trap set, we walked downtown to visit a gallery where our cousin shows her art photography (Cool stuff, said Lily and insisted we put up the website https://www.karenleephotog.com/ ). We stopped by a book store and Elevated Ice Cream (resisted the ice cream but bought a box of truffles for a friend back in Walla Walla).
Lovely things downtown, though we missed and will always miss the dime stores of days gone by, especially Southwood’s, where Grandma Gretchen worked. No more vacant storefronts where “people who do bad things to kids” were rumored to lurk. Gone is the bakery that made fabulous Bismarks (I can taste the custard even as I write this) and Parson’s Lighthouse Café, famous for doughnuts with an infinite number of toppings. No Tami’s Tavern to skitter past or Thompson’s health food store where I used to buy soy nuts and Tiger Milk bars. No Dad’s office on the second floor of the Mount Baker Block building.
So what’s there? Restaurants. Gift shops. A brand spanking new totem pole in front of the new-since-way-back-then Maritime Center. The Maritime Center is a community jewel and prettier than the oil company office and storage tanks that used to be there but. . .all of it very nice, but. . .
I just don’t feel the love. The old town overlays today’s version in my mind and memory’s version is the one that seems real. This is where Lily lived and where my life was forged. If you grew up in a small town that’s changed a lot, maybe you feel this way, too.
Places in Port Townsend are important, but there’s something even more important. The people. And the people came, ten besides Mom and me to the flash mob breakfast yesterday morning, friends who are family and family who are friends. At breakfast, the love was real.
Wow, said Lily.
I know, Lily. I know.