America in My Youth – a True Adventure Story
When I was a wee lass, 6 years old, my family moved from Rancho Cordova, California back to Washington State. It was the Reagan years in California and he stopped the massive spending on public projects that had been started before him. Mom and Dad were both reared in Bellingham Washington. Both from logging families. Both hard working, independent people.
Though they had struck out on their own to California, when work dried up for Dad, a heavy construction/heavy machinery operator, we packed up and moved “home”. Dad got a truck driving job in Seattle, a career he would have the rest of his working life. So we moved into a little rental house on 142nd Street South. We had no real money and mom sewed my sister and I dresses for school. Two each. My favorite was black and white checked with some zigzag red trim.
Our house had a back door we never locked. It was a house built on a lot that had been sectioned off from what once was a family farm. The land had been owned by Mr. and Mrs. Jovanovich. They were immigrants from what was then known as Yugoslavia. They had a whole bunch of sons and a daughter. John and his wife Joanne lived on the property in one of three brick houses that had been build for three of the kids. Daughter Maryanne and her husband Tony lived in the second one and we rented the third, owned by Son Tony. Mr. and Mrs. Jovanovich, referred to affectionately by us as “the old folks,” lived in a really cute house down a long drive. They had a magnificent garden in which they grew tons of vegetables. She had a rose garden and he also grew grapes and made wine.
It was as rural a setting you could get, living on the north runway of Sea-Tac Airport. There was a woods behind the old folks house, a field along their long drive, and a sand pit to the west of John and Joanne’s house.
Those years were filled with playing outside. Even in the Seattle rain. John and Joanne had four boys – Steve, Tim, George and Tom. They were good kids to grow up with. They exposed me to the culture of their heritage and I found it fascinating. It wasn’t uncommon for my friends grandparents to be immigrants. My Nana had an Irish accent, their grandparents had an accent from “the old country” and several of my friends grands did too.
Often we spent the summer building grass forts with chicken wire and the cut grass from the field behind John and Joanne’s. We fried baloney on fires we built, played cowboys and Indians or army. We had toy guns and we knew how to use them. We rode bikes endlessly, building jumps and clothspinning playing cards to the spokes to make motor noises.
We used up every bit of daylight on long seattle days that extended until well after 10 pm — finally giving up the ghost and going inside when we heard the familiar voice of my mother or Joanne calling from their porches. “Karrer-ennn!” Or Tommm-mmmy!” A minor third always separating the first syllable from the second.
Sleeping outside in the yard was another staple of the Seattle summer. Sometimes in an old army tent, other times just on the grass or on a tarp. The Jovanovich kids had two dogs – Smokey and Toby. There was also Lucky and our dog Lobo. They would position themselves at various posts as sentries to protect us. Often, Lobo’s assigned spot was under the streetlight out in the field. You could see his silhouette in the light and feel safe.
One of my favorite summertime memories was planting snap dragons and carnations along the side of the porch that extended out that unlocked back door. So today I enjoy celebrating a country I love, and all the blessings I have had as an American, with some beautiful carnations and the memories of a good life.