Every couple of months, British Columbia resident Robyn Braidwood stays in Sequim with her parents, Gene and Shirley Estes, whom she calls “seasoned residents of the beautiful town of Sequim.” The couple will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary in February.
Braidwood recently wrote what follows, a piece she calls “The Power of Sequim.” The writing, Braidwood says, “is basically a testimony to the strength this place has provided to our family.”
Braidwood adds, “Mom and Dad are passionate about their adopted hometown and I hope maybe more of your readers might identify with what a move to Sequim means.”
“Like many, our family migrated to this lavender haven and began calling Sequim home only after a journey. In our case, one that sprung from a Texas-California blend. Back in 1984, my mother, blessed with a colorful spirit, learned of this town while taking a tole painting class. Dad and she were ready for a change, yearned for a peaceful place to retire and decided to see if the legendary beauty of the Olympic Peninsula lived up to its reputation.
Immediately, Sequim captured their hearts and the decision to settle here was clinched.
From them, four generations have now called Sequim home. My father’s mother Mary Cleo and my mother’s Aunt Florence – these strong women followed Mom and Dad here to gently enjoy their final years. With their passing, another generation was born. Hailey, the youngest grandchild, arrived in 1993.
So since the mid-1980s Sequim is where we’ve gathered to celebrate milestones, birthdays, holidays and anniversaries. This is also where Mom and Dad have learned to share more about their beginnings.
When we were growing up in Southern California, Gene and Shirley rarely talked about their youth. We’re a family of four. Allen is the oldest and lives with his wife Lynda two minutes from Mom and Dad. Marcia is the second-born and visits regularly from Vancouver, Washington. Kevin and his wife Jo Anne live a stone’s throw away – and actually built Mom and Dad’s home.
I reside in British Columbia and stay with Gene and Shirley several times a year. Sequim has worked her magic on all us, and as Mom and Dad approach their 90s, we know them better than from any place before.
Dad started out in Texas, and when the exodus to leave the dustbowl of the Depression hit he was only 13. I never knew that those who made the trek to escape to the Promised Land of California were scorned. Dad was quickly labeled an Okie and with his trace Dallas-Denton accent was promptly dumped in classes meant for those with learning disabilities.
‘They thought I was stupid,’ Dad chuckles, never one to sound a low note. Even though he wasn’t received with open arms, his eye soon landed on a native Californian, a classmate with wildly thick hair who sold tickets at the local movie theater every weekend.
When it was time for her to go to work, Mom strapped on roller skates, then zipped along the walkway to the Coronado Movie House, and often, after her shift was complete, Dad was there to see her home. He only noticed her lovely green eyes, her liveliness and a buoyancy that has long kept them both happily afloat even when times were tough. Dad was blind to the scar on Mom’s arm – a scar she’s lucky to bear.
Her arm is a prime example of being in the right place at the right time. Back in the day when washing machines were monstrous contraptions, little more than glorified barrels with water-extracting rollers on the top, Mom’s little 3-year-old arm accidentally got fed into the squeeze. She’d been playing with her dolly beside her mother while the laundry got done.
In one of those split seconds where catastrophe gains access, little Shirley let her fingers travel between those crushing rollers, and when she tried to pull away, the flesh peeled back. She would’ve suffered the loss of her arm had Hollywood not been her home.
Shirley’s father rushed her to the hospital and there something new and experimental was tried, something now called plastic surgery. Clever ingenuity guided the doctors as they grafted tissue from Mom’s leg, sprinkled this upon her gaping wound, and after about six months, she was as good as new with only a shiny spot you can still see to this day below her elbow.
Mom and Dad married during war time. Dad was sent to sea, and World War II for him was life aboard an aircraft carrier out in the Pacific. As Kevin says, ‘Dad’s head was on a swivel in order to survive.’
Planes making their precarious approach, landing with heart-stopping abruptness that combined confusion with deafening noise and a scramble of activity that was next of kin to chaos.
Meanwhile, Mom saved ration coupons and dreamed of the meals she’d lovingly prepare when Dad returned. And return he did.
Then along came children, more schooling for Dad (he finished at the top of his class), ventures for Mom in cake decorating and art, and the both of them staying together through thick and thin, then finally finding Sequim.
Here they have made friends, involved themselves in the community and found solid strength to weather bouts of cancer. Sequim gives them a vitality that can’t be duplicated. From the driftwood sculptures, the flitting hummingbirds they endlessly feed, the loads of family who wind up on their doorstep, the rosy sunrises Dad sees most mornings and the sunsets they both love, Sequim is their pulse, their laughter, their joy, and when February arrives, Sequim will be where they remember their wedding day.
The day that forever mixed Denton, Hollywood and Sequim 70 years ago.
Thank you for your staying power, dear little town. You mean more to this family than you will ever realize.”
Everyone has a story and now they have a place to tell it. Verbatim is a first-person column that introduces you to your neighbors as they relate in their own words some of the difficult, humorous, moving or just plain fun moments in their lives. It’s all part of the Gazette’s commitment as your community newspaper. If you have a story for Verbatim, contact editor Michael Dashiell at firstname.lastname@example.org.