Norman and Amanda

September 15, 2015

(Catching up to the present with this post.)

Amanda Meyer was born in 1912, the same year as my father and died on Bill’s birthday last year, at 101. She lived 99 of those years in Snohomish, and 83 of them here in this house on Ludwig Road, where she moved as a 19-year-old bride in 1931.

Her husband Norman L. Meyer was born in 1906 in Wisconsin but lived most of his life here and grew up on this property in a house that burned down and was replaced by this one. He and Amanda went to school together and she said he teased her but she got even by marrying him. At least, that’s what one family member told me when they dropped by to check something on the property. Norman’s nephew is our landlord. Living in this house, where Norman and Amanda spent all 69 years of their marriage, you might say Bill and I are slightly obsessed with them.

I can’t imagine any of it. I can’t imagine living over 80 years in the same house, or marrying at 19 and staying married for life, or living as they did, on a family farm with cows, horses, chickens, fruit trees, and I’m not sure what else. Last weekend, some old friends on their way to visit their graves in the cemetery up the road pulled into the driveway on impulse to see who was living here now. “Norman did a lot of grafting,” one of them told us, solving the mystery of why the big cherry tree near the wood shed seems to bear both Bing and Rainier cherries.

The two of them, and then Amanda by herself, must have watched as the city spread and development filled in the farmland. Were they proud to see their city grow or sad to see the farming way of life disappearing? They built this graceful house, and married, in the midst of the Great Depression. What was that like around here?

The house next door to ours, even older than this one I think, was recently sold to the developers whose work is coming up Ludwig Road, straight toward us like a slow-motion freight train. Bill went to a hearing about it and learned there was no way to slow the process, or even make the developer save the huge and ancient oak tree standing on the property in a region that–to my East Coast eyes–could use a few more deciduous trees.

We thought they’d be slow to sell the houses they’d built so far–big houses a few feet from one another with almost no lawns. “17 Unique Floor Plans” boasts the sign for the development. Since there are more than 60 houses, the language maven in me has been resisting the urge to drop by with a dictionary and explain the definition of “unique.” But that’s the least of our worries.

Bill brought home the map of the planned development and it’s evident from the way its roads come to the edge of our property and stop abruptly that in their future planning this place is next. If that happens, it won’t be for at least a couple of years. In the meantime, construction will start any time now on the property next door. We’ll watch the ancient trees come down. Building will come to within two feet of our driveway.

A couple of weeks ago, Norman’s great-nephew was here, looking over the property, and we learned a bit more. Norman worked for Weyerhaeuser and was, his nephew says, “A lumber snob.” So that almost none of the wood in this house has even a single knot in it. Also that the last time the barn was re-roofed the people who did it were cursing Norman for “using so many nails.” Meaning that he didn’t just have the house built, and the barns, garage, woodshed, and chicken coop. He himself built them.

It seems the house with its outbuildings could be parcelled off from the rest of the nine acres that inevitably will be developed for housing and so we may try to buy it, though we’re not sure we can afford it. If we don’t, sooner or later, the beautiful knotless barn will be destroyed, and the barn owls who fly out every night to hunt will have to go elsewhere. And the house too will likely be demolished, Norman’s fine wood and excessive nails carted away as debris. Or else, it’ll be remodeled into something unrecognizable and moved to a tiny corner, as happened to the hundred-year-old house in the development next door.

Either way, I hope Norman and Amanda, wherever they are, won’t be watching.

Image: My photo of Norman’s knotless barn

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