In a few weeks, Sandy Mattara is leaving the island.
The owner of Harbor Mercantile for 40 years, she has sold the business and her corner of Burton. Sandy has done many good deeds, known and unknown to many people, on and off the island. I want to tell you a story of how she came to the rescue for me when I had a major injury.
One early Saturday morning in October, I needed to go to Seattle Radiology to get an MRI for an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear. At the last minute, two friends who said they would take me to Pill Hill in Seattle for the scan backed out. I was in a pickle. Ah, of course, Sandy at the Burton Store would have some ideas.
Sandy, the matriarch of Burton, is a 5- foot tall spitfire, able to leap stupidity in a single bound, and is perfectly capable to out cuss even the nastiest Kent truck driver. I knew she could help me out, and we concocted a plan.
Saturday was bright yet nippy; I layered so many clothes that I looked like a smaller version of the Michelin Man with crutches, albeit in Vashon purple. When I arrived at Sandy’s store, she took one look at me and in her distinctive voice told me to go load up in her van. I hobbled over to it, opened the passenger door and took one look at how high I needed to jump to perch on the seat. This was not going to work. I heard her footsteps and she saw my face. I didn’t have to say a word. She opened the side door.
“How about this?” she asked.
I couldn’t get up into the seat either, my knee not bending.
She said, “I think you are going to have to sit your butt on the floor and face backward.”
I turned around, scooted in, swung my legs up, my back to the back of the passenger’s seat, the soles of my feet looking at the back doors, my legs tucked under the seat and my breasts compacted against the forward-facing bench seat like I was in the middle of a mammogram. Sandy shook her head and muttered under her breath. “No one is going to believe this.” As she slammed the door, I could hear her hysterically laughing as she walked around the van to load the wheelchair in the back.
On the way to the north-end dock, we worried about three things: getting there on time with the least amount of humiliation, about the contortions of my body should we get into an accident and what we would say if the cops pulled us over. The chassis of the van was about a smooth ride as an ATV, but I wasn’t complaining, except at the stop signs. Our laughter, gravelly yet full of mirth as if we were two schoolgirls skipping class, eased the pain as we arrived at the north-end ferry dock on time. The dock was nearly empty as she pulled up, thank heavens. She drove up to the nearest ferry dock worker.
Sandy asked him as she pointed to me, “Where can I park to unload her?”
The dock worker looked through the window behind Sandy, and I watched his eyes go from sleepy to saucers in a fraction of a second. I sardonically smiled back since my arms were pinned. He stifled a laugh and pointed to have Sandy park next to the terminal and came over to get the wheelchair out of the back of the van. By that time, other crew were standing in the triangular area between the docks. Sandy popped open the side door and laughed that audacious laugh and turned to look at the dockworkers whose mouths had dropped open. They stared incredulously while Sandy announced, as she pointed to me, “Will you take a look at this? We made it!”
A couple of them came over and helped out. I knew they wanted to join Sandy in the laughter but were exceptionally polite to me. She told them that the taxi she arranged would be waiting for me on the Fauntleroy side.
“We’ll take it from here,” one of them said, as he carefully rolled the wheelchair down the ramp.
I was relieved that I got on the boat without an accident or being pulled over, yet I swear I could still hear her laugh as she drove up the hill. Things can be complicated living on an island, but we are a resourceful people bound by helping each other. I am grateful for the many friendships of the 25 years that I have lived here. Sandy and I have had many adventures since that day, but we still laugh the most about that van ride we shared that early October morning.
— Jessika Satori is a writer, poet, artist, educator and business consultant.