This morning was one of those mornings where everything is clicking. Through a glorious combination of waking up early enough and a toddler who slept a little longer than usual, I was able to work out, shower, and have her breakfast made before I retrieved her from her crib. We planned to visit my grandmother in a rehab facility, where she’s been recovering from a stroke.
But since things were going my way and the sun was shining, I decided we’d leave early and take a detour to the beach in Edmonds, WA. “It’s an Edmonds kind of day”, I thought.
Edmonds is a sweet little town nestled into the beaches and hills on and above Puget Sound, north of Seattle. It has a main street with cute shops, a ferry dock, and train tracks running right along the water. “It’s an Edmonds kind of day” is an ad slogan from the 80s and 90s, and many longtime residents still proudly display it on bumper stickers and faded, coffee-stained mugs. And in addition to all it has going for it, this charming little town holds so much of my history.
My grandmother grew up there, and her father worked as a baker downtown at the Edmonds bakery. She and my grandpa settled there after raising their six children, first in a giant house on Vista Way, and then a condo with a panoramic view of the sound, the Olympic Mountains, the ferry, and the trains. When they weren’t snowbirding in Arizona, they lived out their days together to the rhythm of foghorns and train whistles. Her sister, a widow, lived just a mile or so away until she passed in 2010. My grandfather died four years later. In his living room, surrounded by his wife, his children, and me, while the trains and ferries kept up their schedules outside.
As my grandma recovers, their condo sits empty, but spring is in full bloom all around it. Driving into town today, I passed the Chinese restaurant where all 20+ of us used to crowd into the back room, stuffing ourselves with potstickers and chow mein, and my cousins and I would order Shirley Temples with like 9 cherries. I passed the ice cream shop my grandma would take us to, and the park where we held her 60th birthday party…26 years ago. I passed the churches where funerals were held for both of my grandfathers, and the house my uncle lived in until last year, where we’d spent the 4th of July with the best view of the fireworks in town, for so many summers. I smiled at the brewery my grandpa would take us to so we could make root beer, every Christmas. I passed the library where my cousin got married, and the hospital where I was born. I can’t turn a corner in that town without a memory of someone, or everyone, I love.
And for a few aching moments today, it felt unfamiliar and sad. The backdrop to so many of my sweetest days so far felt like a ghost town, empty of all of the people who made those days so precious. For a second I wanted to turn around. I didn’t want to face this place that wasn’t the same anymore, because that would mean that I’m not the same anymore, and I’d have to admit that those sweet days are over. But I glanced in my rear view at my tiny passenger. I’d promised her a beach today, after all.
And suddenly, like so many things do, this place so sacred to me became fresh again through her eyes. It wasn’t sad, and it wasn’t empty of people I love. The person I love the most in the world was standing right next to me, full of life and joy and exclamations of “Boat!” and “Choo-choo!” And just like that, I made a brand new memory in Edmonds.
We left the beach and visited my Grandma. My mom met us there, and I watched in awe as my tiny girl interacted with them both, and felt the blessing of four generations of women, still living and breathing in the same room, together. As I drove Sadie home, I made peace with my ghost town, somewhere in my soul. The apparitions of my past aren’t there to hurt me or make me feel sad. They’re there to comfort me, to make me strong and remind me of where I come from, and where I’ll always belong…where my little girl will always belong, too.
I hope I never fail to see them.
After all, some ghosts are friendly.