Remembering Vashon, as we pass the days waiting for tomorrow

I’ll say a word — let’s make it “Friday” — and you tell me what you remember.

  • Friday, April 24, 2020 11:59am
  • Opinion
Elizabeth Shepherd

Elizabeth Shepherd

We stand in a moment of time none of us ever imagined.

Our livelihoods are interrupted and our health is at risk. Here on Vashon, we worry about our essential workers, from our first responders to those friendly and familiar faces, behind grocery store counters, that too many of us always took for granted. We worry about the most vulnerable islanders — those in abusive relationships and those who have been suddenly thrust into poverty — and must try, however we can, to make sure they find the support they need.

We wonder when this will ever be over, and what we’ll face on the other side.

But if you are like me, and have the supreme luxury of being able to be still in this moment, and gaze upon the glory of the April blossoms outside your windows, I’d urge you to meditate a bit on your memories.

They are all like dreams now, our memories. But just pick one, and see how it leads to another.

I’ll say a word — let’s make it “Friday” — and you tell me what you remember.

But let me go first because stuff is already coming at me like a flood.

I remember the Friday night lights of Vashon High School’s football field, when my husband and I ambled past the bleachers stuffed with students, and cheerleaders dancing on the track, and saw our parent friends clumped together in the center of the stands, waving at us to join them.

I remember the First Friday Gallery Cruise when we kept bumping into artists and art lovers we knew at every shop and art spot in town.

Okay, let’s make it more specific: let’s make it the September gallery cruise, which was capped by a parade of sublime and silly Stupid Bike Night participants, riding into town on souped-up two-wheelers. Who could ever forget the bike with the propane tank strapped to the back, shooting flames? That was truly stupid and truly great. We all snapped photos and laughed.

I remember Snapdragon filled with revelers during Strawberry Festival, when owner and baker Adam Cone held court, like some kind of mad king, shirtless, in the midst of the mayhem.

I remember Halloween, when tiny pretend goblins clutched the hands of their parents, walking from shop to shop, collecting bags of sugary treats. I remember the teenagers too, taking full advantage of the freedom of the night — the way they gaggled together as they plotted where to head next.

I remember Easter Vigils at St. John Vianney Church when sleeping children sprawled across the pews as the long evening Mass wore on, and their parents rose to recite the ancient prayers.

Vashon is a small town, and yet there are so many people in my memories of this place.

Right now, in this Great Pause, all these folks are keeping me company and giving me solace.

And they are also the reason I’m staying at home.

We can, we should, we must completely flatten the curve of this terrible virus, no matter how much we miss our friends, no matter how much the nice weather beckons, and no matter how much we yearn to get back to work.

Not everyone can stay at home — so those of us who can, let’s do it double.

I hope to be back at The Beachcomber someday, writing about our town and particularly our arts community — that untiring cadre of creators who seemed to live for a party, an opening night, the sounds of their neighbors’ applause.

I deeply miss, with a dull ache in my heart, places like our galleries, our movie theater, our high school auditorium, Open Space for Arts & Community, the Black Cat Cabaret and Vashon Center for the Arts. I miss those raucous outdoor concerts, too, on summer nights at Ober Park — remember how much everyone loved to dance together?

I hope also to come back to write other island news as well — the workaday stuff of a community journalist who tries every week to help lay down a rough draft of Vashon’s history.

Because our history — our collective memories of the community where our lives are all knit together — is at stake now. What will be written when this is over?

I know this will be a story of resilience and heartbreak and terrible sacrifice for many. It will be a story of heroism and innovation and just plain hard work by others.

It is all unfolding right now, along with the memories of what this place used to be, and our flickering visions of how we can make it more equitable and healthier for all in the future.

— Elizabeth Shepherd is the furloughed arts editor of The Beachcomber.

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