Archive for June, 2010

Over the moon

Her name is Emilia. She was born last Friday, the 25th June 2010, at 4:31 post meridian. Neither Angela or I were allowed to be in the room for her birth, which we initially thought would be hard, since we were present at Mara’s birth. But we joined the young mother’s parents, brother and best friends in taking over the entire lobby of the childbirth center, and so we had a wonderful day of bonding within the very unusual community that we embodied, and we played Hearts and Bananagrams. In the end, the only person the baby’s mother wanted in the room with her besides the nurse and doctor was her boyfriend, the baby’s father. He, I must say — an eighteen-year-old boy not particularly beloved of the birthmother’s family — really stepped up and saw the journey through.   

Emilia getting an early dose of sister love, and Mara suddenly looking very grown up. The shirt says "Big Sister".

For reasons touched on in my last post, it was a very difficult time for Angela and myself, but it was a difficult time for everyone involved. And the two days after the birth, during which the birthmother stayed in the hospital to recover and the baby stayed with her, felt like very sad days. We watched the birthmother and birthfather holding and weeping over the life they had brought into the world together and were about to entrust to our care forever. We felt mixed, a little like thieves or crows waiting, but we kept telling ourselves, as they also told us, that we were the answer to their prayers as they were to ours, and that they wanted us there, even to witness their grief. It was actually pretty damned awfully hard. But it was beautiful too in a way that we will never be able to forget, nor describe adequately.

We brought Emilia home Sunday afternoon, and after a hard, sleepless first night we spent yesterday doing only what was necessary. Laundry, a grocery run, lots of dishes, quick naps. My parents visited. Mara has been waiting a long time to be a big sister and is a tireless “Holder of the Baby”. I wrote this to some friends and family last night:

Mara held Emilia in her lap for three solid hours today and wants to whenever she can, gets petulent when one of us gets a ‘longer turn’ than she does. Mara’s main problem is that we did almost nothing today and so she didn’t get the physical playtime she needs, so she was a little pent up and ornery by day’s end. Otherwise, she was a peach.”

Today was park day, a day when homeschool families gather at one of the local parks so kids can meet up and run around, climb stuff, and turn the volume up to eleven. Angela and Mara have been going for several months. Mara needed this today. I am off work for two weeks, so I went too, and met a few of the other parents — there were perhaps fifty, mostly the women – for the first time. Angela had Emilia in a Moby Wrap, which is a very very long cloth that you wrap around your torso several times in such a way that it creates a nifty seat and cover for the baby and holds her against your chest.

Blessing.

A number of the moms gathered around to congratulate us and admire Emilia, who is lovely. One of them said to me, “You must be over the moon!”

I thought about it for a second and said, “Yes, that’s a great way to put it. That’s exactly it.”

I know she meant the phrase the way it is classically used — giddy with joy to the point of leaping like the storied cow. And we are. Giddy with the silly, bubbly kind of giggling that comes of being anuzzle with a newborn. But to me the phrase also sounded like a place where the emotional poles and currents are all alien and unintuitive and you retain your bearing only by looking back at a world so tiny and fragile and in need of compassion.

As we said to the birthmother’s mother, a dear woman who understood that we were not able to celebrate this event the way people normally celebrate a child entering their family, “We’ll get there. There will be a lifetime for celebration.”

And we ARE getting there, very quickly. Tonight while I was writing this the birthmother called us, and it was great to hear her asking how Baby Emilia-pants is doing (“pants” is an endearing suffix in our home). It was healing to hear her laughter and know that she is going to be alright, that she can handle being in this bizarre relationship. Her phone call felt like permission to finally start leaping for joy.

Who we are and who we are about to be

Most of you know, but not all of you, that we are an adoptive family. Though she is not genetically related to us, Angela and I were present, bedside, when Mara was born, and she has known us as her parents from the moment she first drew breath. We heard her first cry and changed her first diapers, the scary ones with meconium in them that somehow no one ever tells new parents about. We chose to go about finding our baby independent of agencies (not legal in all states) and we wanted an open adoption, which can mean a lot of things but at the minimum it means that the adoptive parents meet one or both of the birthparents.

Mara knows her story and has known it since before she could speak. She is now five years old, a happy kid who knows she is loved unconditionally by her mom and dad and also knows that there is another woman who loves her whom we call her birthmother, who gave her life. At this point, Mara does not find her story troublesome or strange, and in fact we all celebrate the beautiful way in which our family was made a family. I would love to tell that story, but it is Mara’s story now, and because it is so personal I must leave it to her to tell or not tell, as she chooses, as time goes by.

Our little Mara-bean, nine days old.

It has always been our wish that Mara have a sibling to grow up with. We were hoping that we might have adopted another child by the time Mara was two or three, but whereas the process of finding Mara took only a few months and was free of complications, it has taken a lot longer this second time. We encountered several bad situations. We drove once to a hospital in Aberdeen to find a young woman in withdrawal from recent heavy drug use, unable to wake up long enough to talk with us. There we discovered that her baby had been flown to Tacoma and was in the care of CPS or some other agency. We had been called and invited down by someone claiming to be the young woman’s mother, but this turned out to be untrue. The nurses eventually tracked down the proper agency spokespeople for us, whereupon we learned that the child was not and had not at any time been available, from the state’s point of view, for adoption. We drove home disappointed, but also wounded on behalf of everyone involved, especially the mother.

Another situation became a nightmare of mixed signals and misinformation before we decided that there were too many people giving different stories of what was going on and bailed out. One young woman, a girl of twenty, chose us to adopt her baby but changed her mind when the baby was born, a contingency we must always be ready for, and one that hurts a lot, but one that Angela and I believe represents the best thing for the child. We were contacted by one woman, in her late thirties at least, who was not pregnant at all and has preyed upon the vulnerability and trust of many infertile couples in many states, including two friends of ours who were so crushed by being swindled out of thousands of dollars in housing and other assistance they gave her that they have never resumed their effort to adopt. 

It would be easier if they just fell out of Heaven into our arms.

The road to adoption can be frought with frustration and sadness, especially if you go the open and independent route as we have, doing our own networking and advertising, retaining a lawyer and finding a social worker, and meeting birthparents who express interest in us. The frustrations you can sort of prepare for, even if the encounters with swindlers feels like a punch in the gut. But the particular shade of sadness that attends an open adoption is one that took us by surprise the first time, doesn’t get easier to deal with the second time, and is difficult, I believe, to perceive from outside the situation. Children do not become placed with adoptive parents because the world is rosy and light, but because things have gone wrong, sometimes horribly wrong. Friends and family of a couple adopting a child probably will feel joy and relief when it happens, but unless they have been intimately involved in the process they will be to a large extent unaware of the strange emotional space that the adoptive couple occupies with the birthmother. It’s an uncomfortable space, so people tend not to feel free to ask about it, or they don’t know how.

It’s also a space that’s difficult to articulate, but it’s about the converging of the joy that an infertile couple feels in becoming parents with the grief that the birthmother feels in severing the close maternal bond with her baby. You don’t expect to feel such intense sorrow when you are coming closer to your goal of adopting a baby. But that sorrow envelops you and makes you feel kind of quiet and small, and grateful for everything. Life suddenly scintillates in a weird way. For Angela and myself, it works best if we focus on trying to become “servants”, in the Christian sense, of the birthmother, who is often alone and afraid, and has no one else who can even begin to appreciate the emotional strain she is subject to. And the sadness never really leaves, it just turns in time to sweet. Today when we embrace our daughter we embrace too the memory of a courageous woman, and remember that by her unflinching mother’s love we were able to know the great joy of having this little girl look up at us with such affection.

August 3, 2005, the day Mara became recognized by the state as our daughter.

And yet in a very real way, the birthmother needs to see our joy in order to carry on. She needs to see that her baby is going to a happy place, not a somber place. She needs the encourangement of our expectation, the new paint in the nursery, the wee outfits folded and waiting on the changing table – even though everybody knows that the disappointment and grief and sorrow may suddenly turn around and become fully and only ours if the birthmother changes her mind, which (in Washington State) she has up until 48 hours after the birth — or the signing of papers, whichever is later — to do. And so for the good of all we put on the cheery face of expectant parents, even though part of us is afraid to do so, to get our hopes up. We enter this bizarro world with the birthmother where motives and fears are all opposites, and yet we have to all stand in that hall of mirrors together. It’s like an emotional storm for three.

Or four, in our case, for it is also difficult for Mara, who does not understand the complexity of the world, does not understand why people change their minds or what it means when we don’t want to meet again with the lady we met with before (after the fraud situation we decided that only Angela and I would attend “first meetings”). You might ask why we need to even tell Mara about situations that may (and most likely) fall through, but we have determined that the disappointment is easier for her to deal with than the shock of having to share her world suddenly with a new sibling without any preparation or warning. Because she has been a part of each hope and defeat, she is learning valuable lessons about what life can throw at you, and seeing how her parents handle it.

Eager to be a big sister.

I am happy to report, however, that in a matter of…oh…hours now really…a baby girl is due to arrive in this world, and if all goes according to plan she will be our second daughter. Because of the very intimate nature of this process, I am unable to tell this story the way I’d like to, but it’s a beautiful story. I thought I should write at least these few paragraphs, because in a little while our lives are going to become very different again, and you’ll be hearing a lot about it. I promise not to turn my blog into a cute-baby chronicle, but I’m certain that the new life will afford me many occasions to do what I’ve been trying to do all along here, and that is to draw connections between the physical world and the spiritual world.

I’ll continue to do that. There may just be a lot of upchuck around for a while.

Fixing Day

And it came about that there was a certain man who lived in the northwest part of the country, who when the springtime came looked about him and saw that he owned many things that were broken. He wished not to have broken things in his house, but things that worked properly, but he had not time to repair even the simple things, nor knowledge how to go about repairing the things that were not simple. He did not even know where to take the broken things to get rid of them.

When the man looked about and saw this, his cry of lament went up to heaven, and he said,

“Wretch that I am! My house is full of broken things. 
There are two lawnmowers in my garage that do not function
Yea, even three mowers that do not mow. 
And of musical instruments that are missing parts have I two,
For my guitar has broken it’s A string
And one of the reeds in my concertina hath come loose and rattleth around inside.
Do not even speak to me about buttons, for my favorite baggies with the pleated front
And the cuffs
Those baggie pants that are neither too short nor too long
Have lost a button at the back pocket
And one of my nice cotton short-sleeved casual shirts misseth also a button from the front placket.
And how many broken turntables and tape decks doth one man need, when 
The Analog Testament hath been superceded by the Digital Testament?
I cannot keep up with all the breaking, and my heart is heavy with woe.”

And it came to pass that after the man had lifted this lament unto Heaven, God looked favorably upon him in his trouble, and lo, God spake from the whirlwind saying,

“Discontinue thy doling, o man, and wipe thy nose,
For I have heard thy lament
And thou hast found favor in my sight.
Therefore I have decreed that there shall be set aside a day each year for fixing things that are broken.
Let all mankind pause in their feckless rushing here and there and their paperwork and their mass conspicuous consumption,
All of which addeth not a farthing to their life spans,
And let them come together with their broken musical instruments,
Yea with their harps and lyres and these other whatchamacallits, the squeezy thing you mentioned,
And let all bend their backs together in the work of fixing.
Let them convene in one of their neighbor’s houses – it matters not which house, you be the Deciders,
for I am the Decider in many things and am weary today of deciding – 
Yea, let all bring their lawnmowers to the garage of the one who is handy with such things,
Likewise let one person host a button-sewing party, that all may bring their raiments which are
Not able to be fastened because of missing buttons, that the raiments may be repaired with great skill,
And let there be tea served,
And coffee — decaf for those who are forbidden to partake of caffeine –
And maybe some of those shortbread cookies with the little stripes of chocolate on top.
And let it be permissible, on this day, to take all those things that cannot be fixed and all those things
That have become obsolete, and put them in a football stadium, and let who may fix them take them
And let the rest be cast out into the outer darkness, where they shall be destroyed forever.
Now go, and tell your neighbors what you have heard, and proclaim it with thy mouth.”

And when the man heard this, he marvelled, and did as he was told. And a great sound of rejoicing rose up from all the land when it became known that the people would no longer be enslaved to the possession of things that did not function properly, or were missing parts, or could not be fastened because of missing buttons.

These things have been written down so that you will know them and remember.

————————–

Update 23 June 2010:

Cindy at Island Books wasted no time in finding a way to put my whining to good use, printing the above post on nice paper and standing it up amidst a table full of do-it-yourself and fix-it books. Usually, a sign like this is supposed to draw attention to the books, but I think in this case my lamentation will benefit from the natural allure of books about doing wonderful things with real materials.  Nice work Cindy!

The "Do-it-Thyself" table at Island Books. Image courtesy of Marni G., used with permission.

I love what you’ve done with the place

The signature edifice of the lately lamented Washington Mutual Bank (known hereabouts as WaMu) occupies the entire block of downtown Seattle bounded by Second Avenue, Third Avenue, Seneca Street and University Street. I promised twice in past posts that we would return to this neighborhood for a closer look at what’s been done right, and lo, here we are. As always, click to enlarge the photos. 

Big money's gift to the home turf, and birds of prey.

I wasn’t paying attention when this doughty structure, née the Washington Mutual Tower and now called simply the 1201 Third Avenue Tower, was piled up against the sky in my home city, nor could I at the time have told you what kinds of buildings and businesses occupied the block before 1986, when construction began. But I know now. These days I can walk down the streets of historic Seattle in my mind, layering the epochs on top of each other like sediment in each block. 

For instance, when I walk past the hideous parking garage at the corner of University and Third, I can see not only the somber and Gothic Plymouth Congregational Church that stood there in the early 1900s, but also Pantages’ bone-white, cake-like and urbane Palomar Theatre, which replaced it there — its very opposite idea — in the last century’s teens. Where the triangular “sunken ship” garage splits Yesler and James between First and Second, I see not only the venerable and well-appointed Hotel Seattle that was torn down the year before I entered the world, but also the Occidental Hotel that had previously occupied the same site until it burned in the Seattle Fire of 1889, and even the “Old West-style” wood-sided hotel with a deep porch that was there in President Garfield’s time. Sometimes I see things wrong, but I seldom just see one thing. The history is there like good hardwood under bad tile and worse carpet.  

I hold myself more like James Mason than James Dean when I pass through here.

I have to admit I like the WaMu Tower. Not the upper floors I’ve never seen (for what have I to do with the lofty offices of commerce?), but the part I have to trip over on my way around the village. But let’s start at the top anyway. I like the pyramid roof (click the link a couple paragraphs up). It’s distinctive. And the graduated setback is nice, it recalls a sort of chubby Chrysler, Empire State or Woolworth’s (though I can see how the nickname “the Spark Plug” got traction). The arches below the top are festive, and the curved sides lower down break the monotony of the many flat sides on Third. I wasn’t crazy about what I call the “garden block” theme that runs down each side of the building and reappears in the accessories here and there — I thought it looked silly — but I’ve grown accustomed to the little Xs and now they cheer me, like kisses. Or hugs, whichever. WaMu’s love for me writ large. 

But it’s the courtyard or “plaza”, along with the lower lobby, that really makes this more than just another tall building and gives a little bit back to the community. For this is what we must do with tall buildings, we must find what’s good and celebrate it. Otherwise we focus only on the fact that people generally sit in them and dream up ways to separate us from our money and ruin our culture and community. If we can lounge around among the shady roots of these concrete sequoias and find some peace and serenity, then that is much, I say. Often, corporations don’t give us even that, but cities occasionally demand some give for the take, and too, I believe WaMu started out with a (relatively) less rapacious attitude than the one it ended with. 

Smart and fun, but yeah, I remember postmodernism. What else ya got?

In support of that outrageous statement I give you Exhibit A, the two photos above of the courtyard. This is a nice place to walk through. I actually bank here, depositing my paycheck with whomever “owns” whomever (“whatever”), and I love walking among the deciduous trees and up the stone stairs outside and the marble stairs inside. It feels Mediterranean to ascend and descend these stairs, and I always feel a little better about myself as a human being as I walk through — the self-doubt ebbs away and I walk with my shoulders back a little. That’s what’s called “ennobling” and it’s what architecture and other arts used to be about. There is a courtyard at the bottom of the stairway and there is another above it which is at all hours of the business day filled with smokers from the tower taking a break from the stress of living and working in a world created by their very selves and envisioned by those in the offices a few floors higher. (It is illegal to smoke in public buildings in this state, or within 25 feet of an external doorway to such a place.) So much for serenity. I am unable to linger there.

The only thing I don’t really dig is the art installation, the fallen pillar, which actually blocks one’s way through the courtyard and thus peeves one (good art evokes an emotional response, right?). I like this piece of art a little, but only because I “get” it. I see that it is a Baroque moment (a second pillar opposite is out of alignment but is not yet falling). But it’s such a stale and overdone moment, or worse, a slap in the public’s face. The old values come tumbling down and lie in ruins. Yay, commerce is king. I’d prefer something I didn’t understand but that felt positive and uplifting.   

Relax a spell. It's private property, sure, but it looks like they want you to enjoy yourself here.

The lower lobby is bright, airy and large, and has a grand piano in it if you feel like tinkling. There’s almost always someone in here reading Sue Grafton or that thriller guy. It’s not technically a public place; it’s privately owned by J. P. Morgan Chase Bank, but it’s still a civic space, unless I’m using the word improperly. This space is part of what makes the building a success, in my view. It doesn’t shut you out, it invites you in. 

Many years ago, a family of peregrine falcons took up residence under the high outside arches on the east side of the building. A camera was installed and you could walk into the lobby of the bank portion of the main floor and stand there and look at a television showing, often, the parents standing watch over the eggs in their dizzy, windblown nest. It was big news, and good PR for the bank. You can hardly feel but that the nesting of raptors amounts to some sort of blessing on the building. Or maybe not, maybe just a sad reminder that there used to be trees here (but let us paint a hopeful picture, and press on).  

Finally, there is the Hotel Brooklyn. The Brooklyn Building was built in 1890 and it’s still there as an office building, the only thing on the block that was not razed when the tower was built. Here are some pictures to show you where it is: 

The Brooklyn is the low, narrow building on the left side of the photo. This image harvested not quite legally from Microsoft's Bing map tool.

Just a little below and right of center is the same block in 1933. The Brooklyn is on its corner. The tall building a few doors south (down- and right-ward in this photo) is the Savoy Hotel. Image copyright Museum of Natural History and Industry (MOHAI), used without permission.

The old inn and oysterhouse was spared and incorporated into the design, more or less, probably because it’s a landmark. I’m not going to examine corporate motives too closely when the result is historic preservation. Maybe the developer had no choice and the tiny remnant of yesteryear was a thorn in their side while designing the project, much the way the nearby Oakland Hotel refused to be sold when Martin Selig wanted to tear THAT block down to build his Columbia Center (after he built his tower, which looms over the ancient brick hotel-cum-offices, the owners of the Oakland sold it to him, and with a little tape and scissors he incorporated it into his vast multi-level lobby). Sometimes, developers are given a tax or other break if they preserve the facade of an old building they are replacing. That has happened a lot in this city (and would make a good post in itself), but there are those who believe that this only encourages civilians to accept the gutting and basically the destruction of our historical buildings. I can see their point. I have mixed feelings about it, and the main one is that I don’t have enough money myself to buy up the buildings I’d like to save, so I am grateful for whatever preservation happens.  

The Brooklyn today, at 120 years one of the oldest pieces of this part of downtown.

Sometime in the late '70s or early '80s, before the Savoy came down. Image kyped from the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods website, used without permission.

No one knows who designed or built the Brooklyn Building. A plaque on it dates it and describes it as having been among those many hotels that popped up in the wake of the great fire to house the throngs who came to help rebuild the city that burned, and being one of the oldest of such buildings to survive. Its neighbor a few doors south, the Savoy, started out as one of the city’s early luxury hotels, but fell on hard times midcentury and was eventually demolished, I believe as part of the clearing of the block for the WaMu Tower. All that remain of the Savoy are aluminum castings of the capitals that topped the pillars of the first floor’s interior. The plaster originals were hidden behind a false ceiling for decades, forgotten during the hotel’s seedy twilight, then rediscovered upon demolition. Two of the castings are now affixed to the outside wall of the tower at street level.

Beautiful and homeless. One of the Savoy castings reflects upon her new life outside on the street.

Below is a shot Paul Dorpat sent me from early in the last century, before the Brooklyn’s taller, grander neighbor the Savoy was built. This is looking down University, westward, at the back of the hotel. The street is still mud, that’s how old this image is. After it, in the manner of Paul’s famous Now and Then paradigm, is my “now” version, shot during my lunch walk this very day, to snap us back to the present.  

University Street, at latest 1905. Very small dogs could play in the street then. Hey...single family homes where the Benaroya now stands! Image courtesy of Paul Dorpat, who can't remember if this image came from his collection or that of Lawton Gowey, who bequeathed Paul his own when he died a quarter century ago.

June 2010, from just a few paces right of the original viewpoint, lest Harley run me down. The Brooklyn is directly above the lime green taxi coming up the hill. The aluminum castings are visible on the wall just left of the white taxi.

I understand that most of these old buildings had to go. Old brick and stone buildings become hard to maintain, often neglected, some ultimately unsafe and all of them insufficient to the purposes of those who now own the property they sit on. I get it. We can’t save them all. Still I love them (or their memory in many cases, since I never saw them).  Even the broken down and sooty ones. They represent a time when human scale and ennobling art still had a place in the architecture of commerce. But if they have to go, I’m glad when those ideals are preserved in some small part of the colossi that replace them.

The old hotel still serves oysters. The bank has been bought by out-of-towners.

More about the trees

Yesterday I walked up the alley to the market to get my coffee. It was a great little outing, the kind that makes my workday more grounded. My friends at the coffee shop greeted me by name. Then I moseyed downstairs to talk to David, who owns a used book store (Lion Heart Book Store) on one of the lower levels. Later I walked up Pine past Fifth Avenue and finally (been looking for several weeks) found Shoe Shine Eddie, who brightened up my Rockports for me. On the way back to the office I ran into and walked several blocks with Julie, who waits at my bus stop in the morning and with whom I often ride into town. It was the perfect downtown mini-adventure.

I don’t often buy anything from David, but if I’m thinking of a particular book I usually will give his place the first crack*, and he’s always glad to see me. David is lively and fun, a big kid really. He’s a chatterbox and the kind of local businessperson who remembers people and remembers what he talked about with them. He is clearly of Middle Eastern or maybe eastern Mediterranean descent, though he was raised here in Seattle, and he regularly adopts the vocal modulations and phrases of a desert carpet seller, just for a lark. When he rings someone up for a two-dollar paperback he says, “For you, my friend, three hundred dollars. It is a good price, a deal for you.” Women are treated to additional cooings having to do with the question of their whereabouts all his life. If our conversation is interrupted he will say to the customer as I stand aside, “it’s okay, this is my twin brother, you see he looks identical to me.”

David and I have been holding an extended conversation about the identification of a tree that he goes past every day – he wants to know what it is so he can get one, and I have looked at it from aerial photos and on Google’s Street View but we’re still not sure. Or rather, he does not think it is what I say it is (Cupressus sempervirens). Every time I go in he asks me if I’ve walked by that tree yet to examine it in person (it’s in the University District), and I always tell him to grab a piece of it and bring it to the store so I can look at it. We get nowhere.

Yesterday I went in because I was curious whether he had an old copy of T. E. Lawrence’s The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, but as soon as he saw me he started pestering me about that cypress again. That reminded me about my own tree story, which we will now segue into. Please empty your pockets of any sharp objects and hold on.

You may remember one of my first posts about the family apple tree. Where we left off, I had managed to keep only one of the eight grafted trees alive and I had the thing in a big plastic container and was nursing it until I could get it into the ground in a place where I thought it might be able to stay awhile. Well, Mara and I planted it up above the rockery last spring, behind several large rhododendrons.  I knew it would be safe there, get enough light and water, and be out of the way of most of the kid traffic. We had no rain all summer, but I dragged a watering can up the hill every day or two during the drought, and it did quite well. It put on several feet of growth in its two main stems before shutting down for the winter, so that it reached almost to my height.

Not yet a tartsworth, but the significance of this fruit is enormous.

In April the tree put out a ton of cheery white flowers, and I started being hopeful that it might actually bear fruit this year. Technically, an apple such as the Transparent can bear in as few as two years, and I think I grafted mine over three years ago. I’m happy to report that I went out early in May and found that one of the flowers had closed up and formed a tiny little apple.  It was just over a half-inch long. It didn’t look like there would be any more this year, and who knew if this one would even survive or be devoured by a single snail, but I was happy to see it anyway. Last week I checked again and not only had the first one grown to about an inch, but there was another tiny one lower down on the same branch.

I’m happy because this means that I can now declare success in my years-long quest to preserve and transport the family apple tree’s genetic legacy. These two little fruits are the very clone, the direct genetic offspring, of the old apple tree that grew all through my youth at 106th Avenue SE in Bellevue. If the two apples actually grow to size, we will make a small tart out of them. My mother can hardly wait to make apple pies from the Transparent again. For Mara particularly, this is a great story. She doesn’t really grasp yet what it means to me — she can’t because she has not yet that sense of time and loss of youth and the ages of trees — but she reads our excitement about it and she gets that it’s a big deal, she intuitively understands that it is important that we nurture this tree to maturity. The project was worth it to me for Mara’s journey alone. I cannot control what she remembers or values in her life, but I can fill her days with as many opportunities as possible to sense the wonder.

David drank this story in happily, as though it were lemonade. He noted that his own father planted 30 apple trees on their property before David was born, and that when he and each of his siblings were born his parents planted a cherry tree, and that subsequent owners cut down many of the apples but that the cherries remain. Further, he has known many Greek families whose forebears brought figs or other trees over from the old country and planted them here a hundred years ago, and they thrive and survive even today.

David did not have a copy of Lawrence’s book. Last week he had a beautiful hardback of it, but he sold it immediately, and why didn’t I come in last week? Where have I been lately?

I smiled and stepped back as a wave of customers approached him with questions and purchases, and I went out emptyhanded. No matter.  It’s really about the conversation. 

*This does not change the status of Island Books as my official neighborhood bookstore.


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