Home History JCCCW Omoide Neighbor to Neighbor Traditions Revived~JCCCW’s Omoide

Neighbor to Neighbor Traditions Revived~JCCCW’s Omoide

By Dee Goto For The North American Post

Forty-nine years ago in 1973, when my late husband Sam and I built our new house off West Mercer Way, we were welcomed with neighborhood coffee hours. The Mercer Island city “Welcome Wagon” gave us a basket of goodies. That summer, our girls — first and fifth graders — were introduced to students from East Seattle School, which was along West Mercer Way close to the floating bridge. Before the bridge opened in 1940, our neighborhood’s students commuted to Seattle’s Garfield High School by boat. East Seattle opened in 1914 and was demolished in 2020.

In December 1973, neighborhood children got together and went caroling, finishing with hot chocolate and marshmallows at our house. In the past 40 years, those traditions got lost. 

This past summer, for the first time in my memory from those early days, neighbor Ray hosted a gathering on his deck as the COVID restrictions eased in 2021. Over a dozen of us gathered with Canadian, Japanese, German, Jewish, French, Irish, Korean, and Prussian heritages. Ray’s next-door neighbors are an elderly Korean couple who are very quiet. Then, as we were all leaving, someone talked the husband into sitting at Ray’s grand piano. All of our mouths flew open and our eyes became as huge as saucers as we heard his operatic Pavarotti voice ring out a rendition!

My grown-up first grader moved back to our house with her two daughters on Christmas Eve 2019. Remembering the old times, she invited the neighbors to a second gathering in December 2021, with the girls lighting up our house with seasonal decor. As we enjoyed stuffed peppers, brownies, and cheese and crackers, Ray told us about his Foreman grandparents from Alberta, Canada. They built the first house on our hill, around 1935, on Maker Street. Ray’s mother, Robin Foreman, and father built the second house, and we were one of the last of the dozen or more houses on this Foreman property. Robin was also on the committees for the development of the Mercer Island Beach Club and the Mercer Island Library.

I couldn’t help but give Ray a bad time by recalling our first encounter with him as a middle school student in 1973. He and his neighbor-friend, Andrew, took advantage of the lumber delivered for the building of our house. Sam noticed the building of a crude hideaway, similar to the ones he had built himself as a kid, in the empty lot below our lot. Convinced that the lumber was borrowed from our stash, Sam talked the boys into admitting it and bringing the pieces back.

Now, with a new set of school-agers on the hill, they are creating new memories as they gather each morning on West Mercer Way for the yellow school bus.

Omoide Writing Program

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JCCCW, 1414 S Weller St., Seattle
Info: jcccw.org