Summertime meant for making memories, peeking into the past

Contributing writerJuly 6, 2014 

I hadn’t ridden a Ferris wheel for years, but I’d always thought they were the most romantic conveyances on Earth. You know, snuggling in a rickety little car with the wind streaming past your ears; rocketing through the air with screams all around. Good stuff.

Now that I’ve come to the place where my morning email features banner headlines promising to “Lower Your Burial Insurance,” I feel entitled to cling to a few fantasies.

Never mind, the dream is over.

Last weekend I rode on the Great Wheel in Seattle and, to tell the truth, I thought it was lame. It’s all enclosed glass cars, no more exciting than a tea room. There’s no wind in your hair, no mindless screams, no risk to life or limb. What kind of fun is that? Worse yet, I realized that even if I could find someone to share a romantic adventure, nothing about me scrunches up enough to make thrill ride romance practical anymore.

When one dream dies, you must find another and in this beautiful summer, it was easy to find. My grandson, 13, traveling alone for the first time, came from Minnesota to visit. His father, a super fan of Northwest sports, asks that we call him “Ichiro’, or simply “Junior.” I mostly call him “Honey.” We enjoyed all the touristy things, rode the Ducks in Seattle, saw the sharks at Point Defiance and spent a cold, snowy, wonderful day on Mount Rainier and, of course, we rode the Great Wheel

There were exciting excursions with uncles, aunts and cousins. “Honey” is lucky to live near his maternal grandparents, and his mother has done a great deal of family history research. When I started to tell him about my own family and my father’s parents, I realized that I don’t know much about them.

Researching family history has never been more popular than it is today, due to easy Internet access to records, but I needed more personal help. I found it at the Heritage Quest Research Library in Sumner, where volunteers assist 2,000 visitors a year in finding free, hands-on help with family research.

Soon I could tell “Ichiro” that my father’s family left the poverty of Ireland for the Virginia Colony before the American War for Independence. I’ve had ancestors in every war from the Revolution on. Apparently we couldn’t get along with anybody.

Over an all-vegetarian taco dinner, I told my grandson about the family I do remember. I told him about him about my mom who died on the fifth of July nearly two decades ago, long before he was born. I always thought she stayed with us through the Fourth because she just couldn’t stand to leave before the party was over.

My mother loved celebrations. When she gave a party, and she was always giving a party, she invited everyone from the fellow at the gas station to Mr. Morietti down the block who mended shoes. The guest list included clergy and the homeless. She believed in people and they almost never disappointed her.

Psychology Today magazine reports a study showing that people who deceive themselves into thinking the world is a wonderful place are much happier than those who are more realistic and see the world as it really is. For Mom, the world was always in danger of breaking out into joy. She had been dirt poor growing up, lived in a tar paper shack in the early days of her marriage — and was the richest woman I ever knew.

However, she was no pushover. One day she found a stranger inside her car and chased him through six blocks of Spokane’s back alleys. She then threw her 5-foot frame against him in a flying tackle and sat on him nonchalantly till the police arrived.

My mother had no time for negative people. “Flush him down the toilet!” was her standard dismissal. For a girl who lived much of her life with no indoor plumbing, that seemed an elegant solution to any vexing problem.

In years to come, my special visitor and I will look back at our summer and remember the exciting things we did, but I’ll know it was the shared time that mattered. It’s up to us to keep the celebration going.

After my grandson returned home, he sent me roses.

Dorothy Wilhelm’s website is Contact her at 800-548-9264 or P.O. Box 881, DuPont, WA 98327; or

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