City, neighborhood, block

When I became a mom, my world suddenly became smaller. A lot smaller. Specifically, my world became northwest 53rd street between 8th and 9th avenues. I had lived on my block for a year and a half before Quinn was born, but I hadn’t experienced it like this, at the micro level.


Mastering walking on our block in the summer of 2009

Within a few months of Quinn’s birth, my street went from being the path I barely noticed on my walk home from work, to the place I spent most of my day.

Sure, we made our occasional jaunts to Greenlake or Carkeek to walk the paths with other parents and tots in strollers, or to attend our favorite mommy and me yoga class, or the drop-in baby group across town. But for the most part, our world revolved around Gilman Park and all of the other young families who lived there.

A typical morning began at our front window, taking in the scene. On Wednesdays, that meant garbage trucks, and hysterical excitement. Like a lot of parents of young children, I came to love garbage day. I knew I would be able to get the dishwasher unloaded and then started again, to catch my breath, to relish the sight of my daughters squealing and pointing at every passing truck, craning their heads to take in every millimeter of their activity.


On our way down the block in 2011

We headed out almost every day, no matter the weather. Our destination was always the same: the park at the end of our block. But the journey was always different. Some days, that walk would take us over an hour. Some days we actually never made it to the park at all, when a bad scrape or a temper tantrum got in our way. There was always something new to take in, like the tinkling sound emanating from a drain spout or the shiny curve of a worm upon the sidewalk.

If we left the house early, we knew we would see Jenn out sipping tea on her front porch, and a late afternoon trip usually meant we would see Andy out in his running shorts weeding between the irises and euphorbia that lined his driveway. We knew where the chickens were, whose roses bloomed first and which toddlers would be out before lunchtime.

Almost all of the young children came made a daily pilgrimage to the park. We always stopped on the sidewalk to visit, the tots comparing skinned knees and sharing zip doc baggies full of cheddar bunnies and sliced apples, while their parents compared sleepless nights and shared teething tips.


Gilman Park in September, 2010

Then, finally, we would cross the cherry-tree lined street and before us the world opened wide with potential—the park. Certainly it was nothing extraordinary, just a quintet of swings, a dated play structure and a field beyond. But crossing ninth street came to fill me with anticipation. My children would release my hand to run down the slight incline and burst off, taking in a huge gulp of air just as I let all of mine out.

We stayed there for hours. Usually our adventures were ushered in by the weather. In early spring, we would walk the perimeter of the park, letting the blossoms rain down on our faces and lodge into the curves of tutus and baby Bogs. Summer would find us stretched out on our blanket, blowing bubbles and digging in the dirt. Older children rode bikes and trikes in the perpetually empty wading pool.

In the winter, our trips would shorten, drawing us out of the house just long enough to stave off cabin fever, and a short conversation with the neighbor would bridge the small distance between me and my sanity. Fall meant running under the shelter of the giant Birch tree near the bathrooms and holding each other tight as the rain splattered the sidewalk just inches away.

As the girls got older, our world slowly began to expand again to include first the rest of our neighborhood, with its Little Free Libraries filled with happy books, and the bakeries and parks within a bike ride of our home. Every year found us traveling a little further afield, and as new sights were added into our weekly itinerary, we lost the  cozy intimacy our block once held.


Exploring our new block last week

When the girls were 3.5 and 1.5, we moved less than a mile away from our townhouse, and explored our new block, though not like we did when the girls were tiny.

Then my third daughter was born, and though our days now included school drop-offs and playdates across town, I found myself again on very close terms with my block. We love to walk down to Arnie’s house to watch his cats prowl the edges of their property, to sit on the tiny bench in June’s front yard. We delight in the apples that rain down from Freya’s ancient trees and love to climb the fire hydrant at the corner.

My two older girls are allowed to explore the block alone now, and I love standing at the front window and watching them ride their bikes as far as the corner, or stop to sit on the wooden bench, their knees touching as they page through books borrowed from the Little Free Library.

I am grateful that parenthood has given me a broader relationship with these tiny corners of my world.



About the Author

photo 1-5Shawna Gamache is a former newspaper reporter and just launched a new blog Critical Playdate. She is mama to Ruby, 5, Quinn, 7, and Nora, 2. In her quiet moments, Shawna loves writing, reading and avoiding eye contact with her laundry pile.


  One thought on “City, neighborhood, block

  1. Laura Kunen
    December 15, 2016 at 3:10 am

    Do you remember the day the kids found that giant pile of mud at the park and used it as a “sledding” hill? No sleds, just bellies and coats and faces covered in mud and smiles?

  2. Shawna Gamache
    May 9, 2017 at 4:53 am

    Laura I’m just seeing this. Yes, I remember that. It was Gilman Park magic!

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