Spokane native can’t get kids to think east

  • Julie Muhlstein / Herald Columnist
  • Saturday, November 18, 2000 9:00pm
  • Local News

To all those nursing Apple Cup hangovers, forgive me. Just when you thought the subject of Eastern Washington was closed, done, finis, here I am just getting started.

It’s my weekend to put on snow tires. I’ll hunt down hats and gloves. My dad will call with an ice-driving lecture, a recitation of "take it slow, take it slow."

You know how the moon’s gravitational tug causes the tides? Eastern Washington exerts a similar force on me.

The holidays amplify the lure of what a Seattle friend mockingly calls the "mysterious east." But Thanksgiving or not, the attraction is there, beckoning me home.

At its core is family and memory, basic ingredients in a homesick stew. New to the mix is timing.

My nest isn’t empty yet, but a year from now it will be emptier than I like. My daughter will be at college, my middle son starts high school, and my little guy and I will be rattling around the old house.

Is it time to repatriate to ponderosa pine country? I have lately entertained the thought, enough to spend time online scoping out real estate in my parents’ Spokane ZIP code. Trust me, there are reasons to go east that aren’t emotional.

Consider the listing I found Friday for a vintage, three-bedroom house near Cannon Hill Park, priced at $119,900. The ad said "Let’s talk!" At that price, in that Spokane neighborhood, I was tempted to say, "Yeah, let’s."

Cannon Hill has a skating pond where neighborhood kids spend winters playing hockey. It’s on the desirable South Hill, 10 minutes from downtown, with no freeway commute. There is more to quality of life than pro sports teams and a view of Mount Baker.

On my Friday walk up Rucker Hill, I noticed a modest three-bedroom house for sale on a street I like. They’re asking $204,000. The $84,000 difference between the Everett and Spokane homes could finance a pretty piece of college.

My children don’t like it when I talk this way. They’re from here, just as I’m from over there.

In our school search this fall, my boy has visited Catholic high schools in Snohomish County and Seattle. My girl is down to her short list of West Coast universities. They snarl when I mention two choices that make perfect sense to me.

"What would you think about going to Gonzaga Prep?" I’ll say to my son, enticing him with the prospect of living in Spokane near grandparents and cousins.

His stock answer is, "It would be OK if I lived there, Mom."

Oh, right. Small detail. I’m so connected to Eastern Washington I forget I don’t live there.

My daughter rebuts my Gonzaga University suggestion with a haughty no. "It would be OK if it wasn’t in Spo-kane, Mom. I need to be around water," she’ll say, ignoring the fact that Gonzaga U is on the Spokane River.

I know what she means, though.

To my kids, home is a place with ferryboats.

Home is a place where true natives get edgy after a few clear days and are heard to say things like, "When’s it going to rain?"

Home is a place with cool radio stations, a place where you can go hear Randy Newman one night and Jakob Dylan and the Wallflowers the next.

So what if there’s a little traffic and things are expensive? You’re not going to die of boredom here. That’s what my kids say when I raise the specter of Spokane.

For now, they win. For now, Spokane is "over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go." It’s my past and possibly my retirement plan.

I’m not the only one driving east this week. Having spent Thanksgiving eves on I-90 for most of the past 30 years, I can vouch that Wednesday’s eastbound traffic will rival a Boeing tie-up at quitting time.

I’m not the only one who gets homesick, either. Here’s a suggestion if you’re stuck on the west side. Go rent "Vision Quest." It’s a dumb hybrid of a movie, part ridiculous romance, part high school wrestling saga. Like "The Basket," this year’s stunning period film, "Vision Quest" was made in and around Spokane. Try it for a quick fix of the golden Palouse on a rainy Puget Sound night.

It will be poetic justice if my kids someday move away and have to take comfort in watching "Singles" or "Sleepless in Seattle."

Honestly, if I moved east I’d look wistfully west. I didn’t think so until my parents paid a recent visit. They stayed in an Everett waterfront hotel.

My dad, who has lived all his life in the place Spokane’s Chamber of Commerce calls the Inland Empire, stood at the hotel window on a glorious October day.

He looked at Whidbey Island and Hat Island. He looked at the mountains and the sailboats. He looked as a seal popped its head out of the water and gulls circled the marina.

He looked and looked. Finally, he said, "I can see how you might miss it if you left."

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