IN 2004, my then-boyfriend, Trent, and I flew from San Francisco to Seattle to visit his parents in Redmond. It was my first trip to the area. We did the obligatory trip to Pike’s Place Market, but we also took a sunny afternoon drive through Kirkland. It was one of those occasional sparkling spring days that leaves out-of-towners wondering “what’s all the hype about the rain?”
I recall driving past the Wilde Rover and the pavilion in Marina Park. Feeling wildly optimistic about our four-month-old relationship, we flirted with the idea that we might one day move to Kirkland together and circled the neighborhoods over downtown collecting flyers for homes-for-sale. Apparently, we were as optimistic about our economic prospects as our relationship potential.
Seven years, two graduate degrees and couple of “I Dos” later, it’s a balmy end-of summer day, the kind on which picnicking, gelato and strolling along the glittering waterfront are mandatory. The windows of Kirkland’s restaurants and cafes are thrown open. The streets are full of sun kissed pedestrians wearing shorts and flip flops. Well-dressed thirty-somethings push strollers to Hector’s to dine alfresco.
I snag a parking spot near Grape Choice, unload my daughter, Charlotte’s, car seat and join the other sun seekers in Marina Park. I carefully select a shady spot on the grass, a respectful distance from the nearest family (there are many), and a safe distance from a crowd of teenagers just in case they’re smoking (they’re not). I turn a blind eye to the guy sleeping on the park bench, spread out a blanket and free Charlotte from her car seat.
MY NOW-HUSBAND, Trent, fresh off the 255 from Seattle, joins us with a bag of sandwiches from Jimmy John’s. A Beach Club no cucumbers for me; an Italian Night Club plus hot peppers for him. I point out the guy asleep on the bench. Trent shrugs. He’s thinking the same thing I am: “We’re from San Francisco we can handle it.”
Trent and I relocated to Kirkland in June of last year and celebrated the one-year anniversary of our move with a three week old baby. Doing the math, that means we moved to the “burbs” and got promptly pregnant. In the first trying phase of parenthood, it’s sometimes hard to remember why I moved away from my friends and family in California. Lounging in the park on a sun-drenched August afternoon, it’s not hard to recall the excitement I felt for Kirkland all those years ago, but it’s not as if there aren’t waterfront parks in San Francisco.
Charlotte has just discovered her feet and is cooing away in “Happy Baby” pose. At three months old, her senses have just opened up and she’s taking in what may be her first or second eyeful of sunny leaves flipping in the breeze. A pair of school-age girls in matching pink dresses splash barefoot in the water. Trent and I speculate about their ages and try to imagine Charlotte as a first-grader.
Just then, the old guy sleeping on the bench pops up. He’s wearing a crisp London Fog windbreaker and a smart plaid cap. A woman joins him and they stroll off together. Trent and I look at each other and laugh. I remember once again why we moved to Kirkland. Because, in Kirkland, the well-dressed thirty-somethings out on Friday night are pushing strollers; the closest thing to a public menace are the not-so-menacing teenagers; and the guy sleeping on the park bench is just another dude in a snappy cap.
Laura Latta is a writer and stay-at-home mom living in Kirkland with her husband and new baby girl. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.