I grew up in north Seattle, and when I was 12 I had a paperroute, delivering The Seattle Times, which at the time was an afternoon newspaper. I'd upgraded from a route delivering The Shopping News, which was a coupon paper delivered on wednesdays only, and I was quite pleased that I was going to be earning $50 a month instead of $9 a month.
you see, I was young enough not to realize that I was earning more per day with the shopping news than I was with the Times, but I was happy at the idea of earning almost $1.50 a day for 2 hours of work. That was enough for... lets see. four comics, or five candybars, or about 20 minutes of pinball at the local 7-11 store. That was a lot of money!
Being a paperboy meant that I had an odd view of the whole neighborhood. I knew which houses I could go between, and which had fences that prevented that. Where the nice dogs were, and the mean ones. The house that I'd broken the screen door glass on had to be passed with eyes down, quickly. The old norwegian lady who kept pressing me to try the fried cakes with powdered sugar on them (that were amazingly good when I did try them after a year of offers).
One thing that I particulary watched for was fruit trees and grape vines, and a particular favorite of mine was a concord grape vine that was in the alley between 80th and 77th, and 18th and 19th streets. It was held up on a decrepit trellis, and had the most marvelously delicious seeded concord grapes. I'd watch for the leaves on the vine to turn brilliant yellow, and in the shadows of those leaves there'd be clusters of beautiful purple grapes.
These were the best grapes; the skins were the best part. Tart and sweet, in the fall I'd quietly pick a few handfuls of the grapes every morning, savoring them.
It's funny, I never asked if I could pick the grapes; I'd reach in from the alley, reasoning that if I was on a public street that it was ok, but mostly I was afraid that the grape owners would say no, and stolen grapes were just that much better, when you're 12.
So I was reading one of the blogs that I follow, this posting where she discusses growing grape vines from cuttings, and the first thing that popped into my head was this concord grape vine.
So I drove over today, and down the alley, and there was a lady out pruning that very same grapevine. And I stopped and introduced myself, and explained that for 34 years that this had been my favorite grape vine, and that she had a neighborhood landmark in her back yard.
She laughed, and said that she'd gotten a lot of comments over the years about this vine, and that she moved into the house in 1975 and every year had a terrible time finding enough people to give the grapes to, that it was so prolific that she used laundry baskets to pick the grapes. She explained that the vine had been planted in the 1930s, about the time that the house was built, and that daughter of the original owner of the house came by from time to time to pick the grapes, too.
And I had to confess that in 1976 I'd been stealing grapes, thinking i was getting away with murder, when she'd been trying to give them away.
and this got another laugh, and a wink, and 34 years later I finally asked permission -- if I could have some cuttings from this grapevine that she and I both loved.
Sometimes it's nice to close the circle.
6 hours ago