Of the seven Harrington siblings, my sister Pat is the eldest; she has always been the responsible one, the one my mother left in charge of all the younger ones when she took me out to Madigan to get allergy shots every week - the sweetheart as my mother named her just before she died.
I am second, smart and funny but acutely allergic and asthmatic at times and wish I could speak French and German. Michelle is third; she is so petite no one can believe that she’s only three years younger than me and she walks every day for miles and miles and miles. It helps her maintain her girlish figure. Joe is the elder brother; he was the cutest, most endearing little kid with his regulation-military shaved blond head, dark-framed glasses and eye patch at the age of two. Marie is the smart and really, really clever one who can speak French and carry on a conversation about the more intellectual aspects of life. She’s also political, like our mother, and very likely to get into intense conversations about the foolish actions of the government – also like our mother, who would have very, very loud discussions with her siblings. Jim is the younger, adventurous brother who has gone to Indonesia, hiked up a mountain, gotten sick, been left in a mountain hut, robbed of his passport and money while delirious and carried down the mountain to a western hospital by the very kind people who live there and, you’ll be happy to know, he survived. The youngest of all the seven is Kate; she was born when we lived in Germany . During our stay there, Pat and I graduated from high school and we traveled everywhere her salary and my babysitting and summer job money could take us.
There are two variations of two kinds of physical types among the siblings: blond or dark-haired with some red highlights, and slim ankles like Dad’s or piano legs like Mom’s. You’ll notice that I never wear shorts, always long pants. See if you can figure out what kind of ankles I have. Pat has Dad’s very nice legs.
The blonds are, or were blond, since like Dad, they’ve all gotten darker as they grew into adulthood, Pat, Joe, Jim and Kate. The medium browns with some auburn or chestnut highlights are me, Michelle and Marie.
Anyway, of all seven of us, five of us have settled in the Puget Sound area as adults. Just Jim, the younger boy, and Kate, the youngest of all of us, have settled elsewhere.
When Jim was young, a boy named David lived across the street from the family and they went to San Diego every year, taking Jim along as a companion for David. He could not wait to graduate from high school and move there. After he finished his marine electrician training and worked for awhile in a Tacoma shipyard, he took off for the far balmier climes of southern California .
Kate was a swimmer, in Tacoma Swim Club, on the Wilson Swim Team and then the Foss Synchronized Swimming Team. An exchange student boy from Germany came to stay with our family when Kate was in high school. When she had the opportunity to be an exchange student to Germany , she transferred to Foss to enter the IB program so she could complete her work faster and leave in May for the foreign shores. She was born there; everybody talked about it all the time; she wanted to see it.
During and after high school, she worked at Harbor Lights, which she loved and saved up to go to college. Well, she met a cute Navy guy and got married. Soon after that, both our parents got sick and died, of different diseases, in different hospitals and died within two days of each other. After that ordeal, she and Bill left Washington and lived in Navy ports in Mississippi and Virginia and when Bill got out of the Navy, went to live in upstate New York near his family.
Of course, all this information has no real impact on the story; just that it fleshes out our lives a bit. Kate’s two kids, Marie and Tom, were born in New York . Marie, the elder, had the chance to travel to the West coast as a companion to her friend Samantha and, serendipitously, they were coming to Seattle . We arranged to pick her up while Sam and her parents did other tourist things.
This was the first time I had seen her in the flesh. Of course, we’d seen photos and such, but they are a poor substitute for the vivacious, beautiful 12-year old we saw. Kate arranged for Tom and her to fly out while Marie was with us and we had a family reunion. (The brand new baby in our reunion photos just turned eight years old this May.)
When Marie went on to California , Kate and Tom stayed a few weeks and everyone had a wonderful time. All three were pining to come back to Tacoma .
After Marie’s first year of college, she and a girlfriend got cheap flights out to SeaTac and we fell in love again with our beautiful, artistic girl. That summer, she decided that she wanted to live in the Puget Sound region. She moved out here and stayed with her Uncle Joe and Aunt Carol and made the difficult decisions about how to find a job, get to the job and go to school. Ultimately, she moved out of Uncle Joe and Aunt Carol’s to be closer to school and work.
That’s where this story actually starts. Finally, heavy sigh, I know.
Pat and I went to Seattle to see ACT’s production of Neil Simon’s “The Prisoner of Second Avenue” for a Saturday matinee. After the play, we arranged to meet Marie and her boyfriend Garrett in Federal Way , closer to her apartment in Kent and on our way home to Tacoma .
None of us are greatly familiar with the variety and locations of Federal Way restaurants, so Pat suggested several and we picked Marie Callender’s, right off I-5 on 320th - easy to find and easy get to.
Pat and I got there early, and not having been at a MC for several, perhaps 12 years, went in and waited at a table for them, perusing the menu in the meantime. I remembered that the one time I had been to one in California I really enjoyed the food. I remembered chicken pot pie and really good pie.
Marie and Garrett came in and we all exchanged hugs, even Garrett. Two dumpling grandmas are no threat and, besides, it’s a family tradition. We settled in and started getting caught up.
Marie and Garrett work at the same place, she in the sushi bar and he as security. We asked about her schooling; she asked about the art events I’d been going to and we all talked about the books we’re reading, good movies we’ve seen and good places to eat. (This sums up our family’s hobbies right there.)
Marie Callender’s menu offered so many tasty choices it seemed we each easily came up with a decision. Pat made a wise choice in the rosemary-grilled chicken breast with roasted red potatoes. I chose the meatloaf sandwich. (Meatloaf has long been a favorite of mine; as a child I had requested it with baked potatoes for my birthday dinner.) It was so substantial that I had half of it left to take home. Garrett had the spicy chicken sandwich and, frankly, I can’t remember exactly what kind of chicken salad Marie had. Suffice it to say that the food was all good. It was so good that none of us could even think about a slice of pie. This is not a bad outcome, because we had come to talk about our family stuff and to get to know Garrett.
I will say that Garrett is a real cutie-pie and is very, very personable as well as deferential to the aunties in the house. He seems to have a head on his shoulders and is very caring about Marie. These are all things that make it easy for us to like him.
We plan to get together again and make it a wider-family affair. All Marie’s cousins want to see her, summer is coming and we do have a nice deck. So it’s definitely a family party coming up.
After dinner, the young-uns went on home and so did Pat and I. It was a long day and the play was an emotional rollercoaster ride and Sunday is Mothers Day and we each have obligations. When Pat dropped me off, I was glad to sit in my chair and read my latest book about Isabel Dalhousie by Andrew McCall Smith.
It was a rewarding day, full of introspection and then social-family ties - altogether, a good day in the neighborhood.
Sunday, the next day, was Mothers Day and I had the traditional brunch with my long-time friend Andi Melquist and her two youngest children, Rachel and Zeke. We went to Johnny’s Dock, on the beautiful Thea Foss Waterway. Johnny’s, as I heard a hostess tell another motherly celebrant, has 50-feet of brunch. It was beautiful. I love seafood so I went for the baked salmon, smoked salmon, lox, scallops and shrimp, as well as some veggies and fruit. I did not even look at the omelet station or the carving station with roast turkey and roast beef. I had to pace myself to eat what I really like – and that’s seafood.
When everyone was going back for desserts, I couldn’t even think about looking at anything else, so I asked Rachel to bring me something that had nuts or fruit or both in it. She brought me a slice of nutty peanut butter pie. I do favor super-crunchy peanut butter, so it was indeed, appropriate, and indeed good.
When they dropped me off at home afterwards, I talked with my kids and grandkids and then sat in my favorite chair under my favorite lamp and read the two Sunday papers we take: The News Tribune and the Seattle Times. The TNT has Tacoma events and columns and interesting stuff I want to know about. The Times has those things and a wonderful NW Arts section with many book reviews (the real reason we take it) and information about Seattle events. I read the TNT and the Times and think, “Umm, that sounds interesting, that sounds fun; I’d really like to do that.” And then I pick a book and read, or I go play with my colored pencils. Both really good ways to celebrate motherhood and a suitable end to Mothers Day.
Editor's Note: Readers may be wondering about the lack of mention of Peg's husband, Don, anywhere in this story about a wonderful Mother's Day weekend. This is not because he was an uncaring S.O.B. He orchestrated some events and even invited Peg to join him for Mother's Day breakfast at The Buttered Biscuit in Sumner, but she declined. She felt one huge fifty-foot breakfast was enough.
-- Don Doman
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