Can a place as well as a person have a soul? 1209 N. Boulevard is an address located in the City of Long Beach, Washington. But it is so much more than that in the history and traditions of my family. For I believe as do many others, whether they be family or not, that the house at 1209 has a soul.
People who come to this house for the first time leave with the impression that my belief is real. What is it about this place that speaks so strongly to strangers and family alike?
The primary reason why I believe this house speaks to all who are in it has to do with longevity of ownership. Originally purchased by my grandfather, Richard Adams, I am now about to pass on the stewardship of this place to Richard’s great grandsons. I say stewardship rather than ownership because I have come to believe that my mission is to sustain and preserve this family heirloom to pass along to future generations. Ownership is a legal term with no acknowledgement of the emotional ties that can develop for a place.
Next there are the generations of memorability that have survived numerous break ins representing the nearly 100 years of active family use of the house. Glass balls recovered after storms, original family art and poetry, oil lamps, bamboo fly rods, a collection of now mostly antique dishware and flatware (including over twenty different patterns of forks), and reproductions of family photos going back to c1915 among others.
Also contributing to the special qualities of this place are the experiences shared with my extended family beginning with my grandfather who made his last trip to the house when I was 8 or 9 years old. I remember him sitting on the south porch in the late afternoon summer sun, sheltered from the cool northwest wind coming off the ocean, smoking his pipe and watching my father and my uncle Jack string their fly fishing lines out to dry after a successful day on the nearby Naselle River. The creels full of searun cuthroat trout waited to be readied for the frying pan with glassy eyed expressions.
My childhood is replete with recollections of my mother’s brothers and their families coming to the house. And even now there are annual visits from the successive generations of my two surviving cousins whose children’s and grandchildren’s growth has been recorded on the boards and battens of the living room wall along with those of me and my children.
Two of my children have chosen this place to be married. The smoke from countless daily evening fires that escapes the draft from the chimney has infused the old growth fir walls and ceilings with the smells of wood washed up on the shore. The memory of smells emanating from the kitchen signalling creation of home made wild blackberry pie, a medley of seafood, or the Thanksgiving turkey makes me eager to reopen the house each spring after a dormant winter to begin another season of life.
All this and much more has become the warp and weft of the tapestry that tells the history of this house. And I believe the people whose collective lives have contributed to that history are what gives this house its soul.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.