By Jeff Keeling
Had I known last July what I know now, I would have spent more time appreciating the sunlit kitchen, cozy basement den, raspberry patch and every other lovely space of 10214 N. Wellen Lane, Spokane, WA, 99218.
As it is, time did not allow me to get back to the home I moved to from the small town of Omak with my parents and sister in 1979, when I was 14. By the time we visit Spokane again, four or five students from nearby Whitworth University probably will be laying their heads down in the rooms that housed a family’s 36-year evolution from parents and two kids to a four-generation group of 14.
It’s not exactly the way any of us – my parents, Marty and Jayce, or my sister Heather – would have scripted the transition. We’d have had the folks finally deciding to downsize and taking just as much time as necessary to discover the perfect buyers: a young family with kids, eager to take on the continued care and cultivation of the beautiful lawn and gardens my parents lovingly built through the years.
Both of we kids would have arranged for a special trip home, Heather and family from Salt Lake City and I and my family from Johnson City. Four generations would have gathered to pick raspberries and cherries, eat mom’s pies, and play cribbage in the one-car garage that was converted to a reading room some years ago. Our own grandchildren, 5-year-old Owen and 2-year-old Emmarie, would have seen the house for the first and last time, as would our daughter-in-law, Madison.
Perhaps I would have spent one last night in the small basement bedroom where I would read until late into the night. Surely I would have gone through each room, cherishing memories and letting my eyes wander over the stuff that accumulated through the years, from old school annuals and vinyl record albums to glass bowls of agates collected over years of vacations at Orcas Island in Puget Sound.
Everything had its place. Meanings and memories could unfold from the recesses of one’s mind merely by looking at a book or knickknack on a shelf. Outside, what had been a mundane third of an acre in 1979 had become a paradise of flower beds, fruit trees and garden, lovingly tended by both my parents in concert with dad’s acquiring master gardener credentials.
The script was prevented by two things: Whitworth’s rapid growth, and a very quick sale of the house. It had been Whitworth College when I was in high school, and during my freshman year of college when I attended there prior to transferring to Western Washington University. Over the past decade or so, though, Whitworth caught the growth bug, and in recent years nearby Wellen Lane had seen the sale of several homes to investors who rented them to students.
The transition had begun changing the two-block-long street, but it was relatively tolerable until a property owner at its far end decided several acres of pasture was doing his bank account far less good than some slapped-together duplexes would. Neighbors fought what would radically change the little street forever, but growth won out.
The folks are 72 and 71 now. They would have downsized at some point. They found what for them will be the ideal house just a couple miles away and made an offer. The day they listed their house, an investor made an offer. It all happened that fast.
My mom said she probably will try to avoid going by the old place, particularly knowing it won’t be owner-occupied. But we are a people who recognize that this world is not really our true home, and that no matter how weighty with meaning and memory, stuff is still just stuff.
So we’ll just look forward to introducing Owen and Emmarie to Spokane and the home of “Martyjayce,” as Owen used to call his great-grandparents, at 2012 West Regina. I’m sure they’ll have it looking lovely by the time we get out there.