The old old mansion was on Chico way.  It was absolutely fascinating with too many rooms, all still mostly furnished with things that were never ours and two sleeping porches where my three brothers and I could all stay if we wanted.  The neighbors, Ruth and John, welcomed me into their home daily.  I was about 5 years old and I had never known my own grandparents.  My only memory is of my paternal grandfather whom I have a clear picture of from seeing him in his open casket.  Certainly, I was already searching for adults who could fill in the blanks for me.

I would sit with the Longmates and eat as many of the tiny cookies from the jar as I could without seeming too greedy.  The round table looked out over the Puget Sound, out over their yard and ours as well.  They had a Lazy Susan holding the jar.  I felt we had lots to chat about.

Every fruit tree had a circular swing made from plywood with a rope tied through it square in the middle.  You would balance your legs around it and start kicking yourself off the tree spinning as many times as possible before your feet would hit the trunk on the other side.  John had made the swings for his own kids who had long grown out of the house.  ‘Granny’s House', where we were staying, also had been vacant of kids for many years.  Granny had died earlier that year and my family moved in while my dad was trying to sell the house for his colleague, one of Granny’s sons.  

One day we were coming home in the Packard with a babysitter when the brakes went out.  The slope to the Sound was steep enough and about 100 feet long.  There was a tennis court at the base of the property just up from the beach.  My mother was behind the wheel and saved the day by turning sharply so that we went through the wooden backdrop of the court rather than onward to the beach. 

The tennis court had been used in the summer and also in the winter.  I know this because there was a basement room at Granny’s that was full of ice skates.  Ruth had told me that the kids would freeze over the tennis court and skate.  Additionally, there was one pair of shoes that someone had attached two large springs to so that when you put them on you could bounce around.  John made stilts of every size so that we could practice being tall.

There was also a tram that ran from the top of the Longmates property all the way to the base and popped you out over the sound.  Two of us could get on at a time, but I often road alone over and over.  It was all a dream scape but it only lasted a year or so.

The next time I would see the house and the last time I saw the Longmates was when I was a teenager on my way to End Fest in Bremerton.  I just stopped by as our families hadn’t stayed in touch. It was terribly awkward for me because I wasn’t the same anymore.  So much had happened between the age of 6 and 16 and we would have needed time to re-acclimate, but they were parents and I hope they understood.  What I wanted was for them to know how special they were to me and I wanted to feel the magic of that place again.

I took Margaux there last summer to show her where I had lived at her age, but Granny’s house is unrecognizable.  It’s been gated and fully restored.  It has so much foliage, you cannot see the route the Packard took down to the courts or the fruit trees or the water.  The lawns are now separated and I imagine Ruth and John are gone.

I plan on rowing out front with her this year from the public dock down the way!