I realize I’ve been rather remiss in updating the blog posts about the Best Gift Ever (from the Best Mom Ever – that’d be mine): a Year of Dates for my husband and me to enjoy, once a month for twelve (really fantastic) months. With my wedding anniversary coming up, I thought I’d spend a few writing sessions re-living some of the fun Bill and I have had so far…
January was a late (and surprisingly delicious) breakfast, followed by some serious bowling action (as fun as this was, I’m not sure I want to go back to the scene of MY victory, as Bill is still grumbling about a rematch, and I’m pretty sure I’d never win again!).
February was a return to one of favorite dates when we had way more time on our hands (pre-children, obviously): lunch (a date isn’t a date without food…) and a visit to a bookstore for some serious browsing. (Can you hear my sigh of contentment? I can seriously spend hours looking at books…)
March was… oh yeah, March was a date at the HOSPITAL with the toddler to learn that he had Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. Hot date, right?! Actually, the third of our year of dates was supposed to be the day after Broder’s diagnosis, but since my mom would be babysitting (this is a major part of her gift to us, which is really a double gift: no babysitting expenses AND my kids get to spend quality-time with one of their favorite people on the planet, their grandma; have I mentioned that this is the Best Gift EVER??), and since Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease is highly contagious, and since Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease can still afflict adults (though it usually hits kids under the age of five), and since Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease can be quite painful… the gift-giver was more than happy to give us a rain check on date number three.
Which brings us to our April date… playing tourist in our home town.
I’m always surprised how little I know the town, state, and even the country in which I live…
For example, when my best friend from high school and I moved to England for four months during our junior year of college (we were supposed to be there for the year, but the University I attended, turns out, decided to up and DROP the program I crossed a continent and ocean to study at, and turns out, didn’t bother telling me until I showed up on the first day of school… Nice, eh? At least I managed to cobble together a semester’s worth of courses so I could justify my stay…), we took the train and/or bus to a different city EVERY WEEKEND. By the end of our 16-week stay, I knew England better than I knew my home state of MONTANA, let alone the good ol’ U. S. of A.
So, Bill and I have been back in Seattle now for 11 YEARS… plenty of time to get to know our “home” city, right?! Yeah… No.
In all fairness, I’m quite familiar with our little neighborhood of Ballard (for those who don’t know Seattle, our city is a bit like New York City – though on a MUCH smaller scale – in that it’s comprised of multiple burrough-like nieghborhoods that were once their own municipalities (with their own mayors and everything!) before being annexed into the city; this means that each neighborhood has a very distinct history and sense of identity that makes visiting each neighborhood a bit like visiting a different town altogether: Ballard was originally settled by Scandinavian immigrants, and is still an active fishing port; Fremont, down the way from us, is the eclectic, artistic neighborhood, and the self-billed “Center of the Universe”; Capitol Hill still embraces the edgy vibe that gave birth to grunge music; Downtown is home to Nordstrom (yes, fine, it’s also home to the iconic Pike Place Market… but, really, it’s all about Nordstrom’s shoe department); the University District is, well, duh, where the college kids hang out; and so on and so forth…). But, though I’ve necessarily visited and driven through various neighborhoods, and can find stores (read: Nordstrom) and street fairs (yep, I’ve seen the naked bike riders at Fremont’s Solstice Parade) and coffee shops (one requires much caffeine to survive the drizzly and dreary Seattle weather) just a bit further out than the 10 mile radius I tend to limit myself to, there are pockets of Seattle that I just haven’t explored and would love to know better.
Like, the International District… We’ve taken the kids to the (have-to-go-at-least-once-but-should-be-more-like-annually) Lunar New Year parade, and I, of course, have been told a thousand times that I HAVE to go to Uwajimaya, the huge Asian specialty supermarket (and someday I’ll get there, but honestly, just going 15 minutes to the local Fred Meyer seems a colossal effort most weeks; I just can’t summon the energy to battle the traffic and drive 30-45 minutes each way, no matter how awesome the selection of bok choy or hoisin sauce), but for the most part, Bill and I haven’t spent much time in this part of Seattle – located just a touch south of Downtown and a bit east of Pioneer Square (where you’ll find a lovely selection of art galleries, and the comical-but-historic Underground Tour – I’ve been to that neighborhood, yay!).
So on a sunny (who knew?!) day in April (which is usually one of the rainiest months in Seattle, and this last spring was particularly and brutally rainy, so the sun was SO appreciated), we headed off to play tourist. Bill had suggested two vegetarian-friendly restaurants (I’m the vegetarian, which sometimes makes finding places to eat just a wee bit challenging – I know, I’m such a pain!), a Thai place and a Vietnamese place. Both sounded great, but as we neared our destination, I just couldn’t bear the thought of going indoors when the sun was shining so brightly! We needed a patio… So, I pulled up the Yelp app on the iPhone (how did we survive before smartphones and apps??) and searched for outdoor dining in the International District, and surprise surprise!, the Vietnamese restaurant Bill had found – the Tamarind Tree – had a patio! In the sun! I could pig out on yummy, Jill-friendly food AND soak up some much-needed Vitamin D. Seattle was turning out to be such an awesome town to visit!
After we could no longer justify taking up space on the toasty warm deck (there were other sun-deprived individuals waiting patiently and not-so-patiently in the shadows), Bill and I slowly strolled down the hill a few blocks to visit what would be the highlight of our day’s tourist agenda: the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience (tourist tip: general admission is free on the first Thursday and third Saturday of every month; how awesome is that?!). Though a bit hesitant to go indoors (it was sunny!!), the museum is light-filled and, really, a very beautiful and inviting space. The museum is dedicated to telling the (important and emotionally-touching) stories and sharing the cultural artifacts of the Asian/Pacific immigrants and citizens who have, since the very beginning, helped build Seattle into the vibrant community it is today. The museum is a wonderful resource and community center; after the couple of hours we spent wandering through the different exhibits (and I must confess, my favorite part was the pop-culture exhibit with the vintage Pac-Man arcade game visitors could play for free (!!); I just kept circling around the exhibit waiting for “the other tourists” to get out of my way – um, I mean, move on – so I could play another round!), Bill and I agreed we couldn’t wait to bring the kids for a visit.
With the kids on our mind, we took a quick tour of the gift shop, but (rather quickly, too) decided that this was one “vacation” (or “staycation” if you’d rather) that didn’t require us to bring home souvenirs for the children.
After all, we’d definitely be back. Maybe even on another date… Though perhaps after touring some other parts of our “home town” that we don’t know as well as our own backyard… Like the Museum of History and Industry at Lake Union Park (haven’t been there), or the Experience Music Project at Seattle Center (haven’t been there, either, other than for a cocktail about a decade ago), or catching an outdoor summer concert at Marymoor Park (haven’t done that – crazy, right?!), or taking a ride on the SLUT (again, haven’t done that; and for you dirty-minded readers, get your head out of the gutter – I’m referring to the very tastefully named South Lake Union Trolley, a fairly new streetcar connecting various neighborhoods of Seattle!), or even… well, you get the point. There is so much to see and do… just in our own town!
And the best part (well, other than not having to buy a plane ticket or hassle with TSA)? After playing tourist all day, it’s really nice to go home… and be home…