First House

Spouse and I moved far enough away so visitors had to commit, but our commute didn’t suffer. We found a house on acreage, a remnant of a former faith-based co-housing community, tucked on a perch above the Tolt River. The house had the feel of add-on. Not from well-thought-out design, I could never be sure which part was original: maybe the back section closest to the river, the section using large boulders for foundation support? The place was funky.

The rickety front door opened into the kitchen-dining area, with a free-standing range and south wall row of cupboards/counter/sink. A step down presented the living room, with the entire room curving around to give privacy for sleeping.  Shag carpet was throughout. The bathroom was standard, save for the rough cedar planked walls and the close-set drying rods: there was no chance our enormously plush wedding towels would ever dry. We moved in our essentials: futon, stereo with LPs, upright piano, books, table, and kitchen gear. I wasn’t a cook yet so the small number of cupboards warranted plenty of storage.

We now lived a few miles outside of a small rural east King County town. Next to our house was an adequate duck pond, where the poultry trainer I had evidently married quickly made acquaintances. Next to that was an unused barn, an empty pasture, then two more houses where our co-landlords lived. Don was the first adult (I still didn’t feel like one) I had met who was truly captivating in an unpredictable way. He lived in his own time zone and seemed to understand the importance of happiness. Spouse asked about adding a couple of goats to the empty barn and pasture. Don, leaning on the fence, looking over the pasture, appeared to be listening, but replied with:

You know what I’d really like? I’d like to have a party, where everyone could sing and no one could laugh.

We two young twenty-somethings didn’t know how to respond. “Yeah-that’d be great. What about my goat idea?” Never getting an answer, we never got goats. We did house some Silver Spangled Hamburgs across the street in an unused chicken coop, loved being housemates with Shirley, Goodness, and Mercy, and we saved Fred the beagle from certain death at the Humane Society. I planted a small vegetable garden.

The Tolt River Reservoir is one of the primary sources of Seattle drinking water. I had learned of the reservoir, and I had learned on the edge of our lawn, hidden by a well-placed Douglas Fir, was a siren which would be used if the reservoir dam ever let go. I had not learned that the siren was routinely tested on Wednesdays at noon. That first summer Wednesday at home was an epiphany. Spouse had driven the 1970 VW Transporter Type II to work and I had the Beetle: how much stuff could I cram into that tiny vehicle and still get away with my life?

My favorite memory associated with this house has more to do with living in a small town.  Some friends sent us a card, a Thank You perhaps? I don’t recall. They addressed it:

Our Names

The Little House with Blue Trim on Tolt River Road

Carnation, WA

We received it. The town was small, the landlords were kind, accommodating, inviting, and the house was probably, eventually condemned. Living on the edge of normal, on the edge of disaster, on the edge of what we hoped to be a long life together, this was the perfect place to begin our story,

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