The Beach House: End of an Era

About fifty years ago my parents bought some beachfront property in Puget Sound near Hood Canal Bridge.  It cost them ten thousand dollars; they had to put one thousand dollars down.  It was overgrown and the house was more in the nature of a shack, but it had a wide lawn in front and a spectacular view across Hood Canal to the evergreen-covered Olympic Peninsula and the Olympic Mountains.

The area was little-populated and little-traveled in those days.  The small town of Port Gamble, a mile away, had a thriving lumber mill, and logging companies were running riot
over the nearby forests of old growth fir and cedar.  In addition, isolated farms were scattered here and there.

My father, always the handyman, got busy right away mowing the lawn, clearing a safe trail to the beach, repairing the house, installing enough furniture for a family of six (and counting).

We kids, of course, commenced exploring.  We soon found out that the sea water was
arctic cold, and indeed it did flow down in swift currents from northern regions.  Swimming was impossible; even a swift leap in and screaming and shuddering bound out was only for the brave even on the hottest days.  But there was plenty else to do.  We could search for rocks and shells.  We could climb over the abundant driftwood.  We could fish with worms for tiny bullheads, keep them in a bucket for a while, and then toss them
back into the water.  When the tide was out we could dig for geoducks and clams.  In addition to all this we could also, of course, play games with balls, Frisbees, sticks for swords, and so on.  On the grass of the bank leading to the beach we would often catch
garter snakes, which was a great thrill.  Once I even managed to capture a chipmunk, which I meant to keep for a pet until our dog got too curious and knocked the cover off its cage.

The great adventure was when four or five of us kids would obtain a few pennies each and walk along the highway to Port Gamble and buy candy.  We also had a small power boat
and would go out into deep waters to fish for cod or salmon.

Those were good days, simple days.

As I got older, I was often reluctant to go out there from Seattle for the summer.  I wanted to stay in town so I could hang out with my friends.  For years I had this tussle with my parents over where I would spend the summer.  In the end I had to yield; I wasn’t old enough to insist.  My mother also had a struggle sometimes getting me out of the cabin into the fresh air; I was a consummate bookworm and would curl up on the couch and read even in the best of weather until I was pried off and shoved out.

Later still, on my own, I would take girls out to the beach house, or go out there with my buddies to drink and party.  My parents weren’t too thrilled when they found out about those escapades.

Things happened and my parents divorced.  My father moved out there, and would commute into town every day to his dental office.  When he retired he continued to live at the beach house, and I would visit now and again when I was in town during respites from my wanderings.  After we had our first three kids my wife and I once visited from Greece for a week or so.

All this to say that there is a lot of history tied up in that place.

Yesterday I visited it for what will probably be the last time.  My father is moving to a
retirement home and has sold it.  I went down to the beach and sat there alone on the rocks reminiscing.  All those happy times came back to me.  I hadn’t always appreciated the place or the activities.  Things often seem to acquire a golden glow in retrospect.  It came to me that good things happen to all of us throughout our lives, but for various
reasons we don’t always appreciate them when we have them.  In hindsight they appear glorious; when we live through them there is often something to tarnish or lessen the experience.  If only we could learn something from this, but it is not just a childish phenomenon; it seems to continue on into adulthood.  Great things happen but we
don’t always see them as great things.  And as we progress onward through the journey of life opportunities abound constantly to make the most of it, but we shuffle along, heads down, senses dulled, wishing this or that bit of inconvenience would go away, our eyes on the trivialities and not the glory.

The truth is, it’s all glorious, every bit of it.  Enjoy it while you have it.

But if you lose one bit of it, don’t despair.  There are greater things ahead.

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1 Response to The Beach House: End of an Era

  1. Sally says:

    Thanks so much for the beach post John. I really enjoyed it. Sal

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