Monday, March 25, 2013

Spring Break: From Midwest to Pacific Northwest

Years ago, I lived in Seattle for five years. One of the best things to happen during my time there was the birth of my oldest son, Grant. But we left when he was six weeks old, and never returned. He's 18 this year, and a senior. I told him I'd take him anywhere in the continental U.S. for a graduation present-- and he chose the city of his birth:

Grant on a boat tour of Elliott Bay, Seattle skyline in the background

The trip ended up being not only a gift to him, but to myself as well. Salt air and gulls and bookstores and coffee--I didn't realize how much I missed my beautiful city until I walked through it again on the first day there. Am I silly that I cried a little, just from the familiar smell? 

Me 'n' Rachel, the Pike Place Market mascot. She looks like she's giving me a stinkeye sideways look for leaning on her.  But from where I come from, people are comfortable with livestock. Even bronze ones. 

We had great conversations over great food: 

I think I walked about four miles a day every day we were there. It still probably wasn't enough to work off the pastry, and the lattes, and the seafood, and......

I found out what I'd suspected all along: I really enjoy the company of my oldest son. And I'm not just saying that because I'm his mother. 

As landlocked as we are where we live now, it was refreshing to see the water in a big, big way: 

This is the USCGC Healy, a U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker, Port of Seattle.

It was fun showing Grant my old favorites: 

They don't do fish and chips quite right anywhere else. Eighteen years was a long time to wait for a fix!

Being a tourist in a town you used to live in is a blessing mostly. You're familiar with the landscape. But it can also be frustrating. Grant and I both were tempted by all the market produce:

Fresh artichokes! 
And felt sad not to have a kitchen to cook in. Pike Place Market vendors still have personality to spare: 

I wanted to load my arms with bunches of flowers, too. The flower stalls were a sight for winter weary eyes. 

Seattle in March is still rainy, cloudy, and chill, and mountain hiking not really accessible without a lot of equipment we didn't have and couldn't pack on an airplane without a huge hassle, so it was strictly urban tourism "this time." I say "this time" because we were talking about "next time" on the plane ride back, so maybe next time we'll plan for a time of year when Mt. Rainier and the Cascades will be "out." 

Instead we found ourselves some culture. This famed self-portrait was visiting the Seattle Art Museum on loan from the Kenwood House collection in London: 

A Wikimedia commons public domain image.

We found that independent bookstores still thrive in Seattle (thank goodness): 

The Globe Bookstore in Pioneer Square

We dug the nineteenth and early twentieth century architecture: 

And discovered some new things, like this gated private park on 2nd Avenue, east of Occidental Park:

I should say "new to us" in this case. The garden has been there since 1978. I never knew it was there when I lived here! 

We also loved the Chihuly Glass and Garden museum at the Seattle Center, a new attraction: 

And we did what all "must" do here, a trip to the top of the Space Needle: 

The views are spectacular. 

We spent the last morning on the University of Washington campus. We were a little too early to catch the Japanese cherry trees blooming on the Quad, but I found myself just as fascinated by their twisted, mossy forms. 

We also ate lunch with a friend and former co-worker of mine. It is very reassuring to find that despite nearly full grown babies, a (few) gray hairs, and eighteen years gone by, we still laugh together at just the right moments in conversation. 

The trip gave Grant a first adult look at the place he was born, something I still, at 45, don't have (I was born in San Antonio and left as a baby, never to return). He left here a newborn and returned a young man. I'm glad to have this time to spend with him, and glad to give him the experience. He's off to Europe on a school trip in June; I hope this trip with Mom serves as a good training course. I know the time left to parent him is dwindling as he goes off to college next fall. I'll cherish this trip the rest of my life. 

Did you "spring break?" Where, and what did you do? 


  1. We are spring breaking right now--just a throw across the Sound on the Olympic peninsula. I grew up in Seattle and went the the UW. I know just what you mean about the water. I'm not that far away and I'm still in the NW, but whenever I get back to the water I feel actutely homesick for the city that will always, I think, be home to me. There is something about the smell, and the damp, and the sound of gulls in the air. I like Portland a lot, and given the way life goes, I won't be surprised if I never live in Seattle again. But it will always be true home to me.

    Thanks so much for sharing your photos. I loved seeing them!

    1. Why do I feel I "just missed" bumping into you? :) I have learned to love all the places I've lived and feel like they are "adopted" home towns. Seattle is definitely near and dear to my heart. I plan to return again someday, but like you, I know how life tends to happen just like John Lennon said, "when you're making other plans."