“Where are you from?”
I get asked quite often. For me, it’s not an easy question to answer. Do you mean where did I start out? Where did I live while growing up? Where is my favorite place? The list is long. One day I counted them up. Eighteen houses in way more places than people want to hear about. So I tell them Seattle, Washington.
I moved there when I was 10. I left when I was 16. That’s where I came of age. Where I got braces on my teeth. And my first kiss. And a driver’s license. And a portable radio. And life-long friends. And my first bra.
In the fall of my 16th year I was dragged, kicking and screaming, to the East Coast where the kids at my new school wore Bermuda shorts and had funny accents. They played lacrosse and field hockey, games I knew nothing about.
At Queen Anne High School in Seattle I was vice president of my sophomore class. At Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia I stayed after school to catch up. And when I got home, I wrote letters to my Seattle friends. I wasn’t good at adjusting to this strange place.
We moved to Philadelphia because my dad quit his job and couldn’t find another one in Seattle. None of us wanted to move East. The people weren’t friendly. It didn’t feel to me like the City of Brotherly Love.
My dad sympathized. He allowed me to spend the summer between my junior and senior year in Seattle with a friend. Her family had a boat. We cruised the San Juan Islands and sometimes slept on the beach. That made it all the harder to go back to Philadelphia.
I have been working my way West ever since. When my dad said, “Not one dime to go to college west of the Mississippi River,” I chose Ohio. When my soon-to-be husband planned to go to law school in Ohio, I convinced him to go as far west as Boulder, Colorado. When he died, 30 some years later, I went to Seattle to lead bicycle trips for a summer, thinking I’d move back at last.
But the place had grown and changed. I had kids and grandkids and friends in Colorado. And so I came home. But there’s a part of me that says Seattle is still my place. I have old friends there, and now a grandson.
And a pile of memories.