This is what a heavenly weekend is to me: When I look up, only blue sky.
And it’s heaven, of course, so there’s been no recordable rainfall in the whole month of July!
I meet my friend Steph at the corner for coffee, something I seldom do. She loves to meet for coffee, but it isn’t like this for me. I think about it, but the part of me that prefers sipping at home in my bathrobe always wins out. With two hot, creamy, caffeinated equivalents of milkshakes, we head down to the water taxi.
On the other side of Elliott Bay, on the sands of Alki, a little girl smiles at me before walking to sit with her family: men, women and numerous children, cross-legged on a woven mat under a wide, blue tarp secured by the weight of halved Clorox bottles filled with sand. Between them, a feast is spread in large tinfoil containers. The food smells so good, I spend a long, private moment inhaling its tang.
And it occurs to me that, other than the 20-somethings from India and other countries here to work at Microsoft, Google and Amazon, I rarely see any immigrant families move into my neighborhood.
Steph says an economic wall divides Seattle, north from south. “Take the light rail to the airport if you don’t believe me.”
“Same old,” I said. “The high cost of living defines what neighborhood you live in. And ethnicity.”
She is right. Growing up in New York taught me the meaning of the word and the importance of it, how people want to live around their own no matter how much bureaucrats throw the word “integration” around.
Even so, I find the division odd and unsettling. I can make sense of it, sure. But it still feels insensible.
The family sits very close together under the tarp, and the men throw arms around each other. I find their laughter and singing hypnotically tender and moving. I stare. What language are they speaking? When one of the men winks at me, I turn my head away.
In contrast, most Seattleites sit separately in upright beach chairs, reading from Kindles, talking on the phone. Note: not much laughter among us. Even the volleyball game is intense.
Turning over on the sand, I think about all the people who dream of one day living in an always-sunny place, exploring new beaches for months, even years, at a time, longing to break life-long routines, people who want (or think they want) to live on the fly, who pine for endless sunsets.
I can understand the appeal. But I am not cut out for it. I am hopelessly committed to belonging.
And watching the girl and her mother eat something I don’t recognize, expertly with their hands, brings this longing to the surface.
The reason? My own mother recently had a stoke of which she will never recover. She lives, yet does not. Suddenly, I feel too near the edge of seclusion.
I flop over again, try my hardest not to feel the squeeze of aloneness. If I’m not careful, it will grow, grab on, not let go.
Luckily, another squeeze comes to mind. Steph squeezed my shoulders and coaxed me gently away from my mother’s bedside, saying, “How nice a walk outside would be.”
That squeeze kept me sane.
Friendship family. Where would we transplants be without it?
I stand, run through the sand, dive into the bay, where I am not longing for more. The miracle of water is so overpowering, it always feels like enough.
I freeze my behind for nearly five whole seconds.
I gather up my towel, and Steph and I walk toward the water taxi again.
MARY LOU SANELLI’s latest title is”Among Friends” (www.marylousanelli.com). She will perform her work at the Bellevue Club on Sept. 19, at Dunn
Gardens on Oct. 3 and for the Greater Seattle Newcomers Club on Oct. 9. To comment on this column, write to QAMagNews@nwlink.com.