Of the many priceless opportunities I’ve been afforded on this short-lived visit back to the US (including attending my best friend’s wedding and meeting my cousin’s beautiful children for the first time, to name a few) spending my Fourth of July holiday on the shores of Hood Canal has to be one of the most special.
Hood Canal is not a man-made waterway as the name would suggest, but a natural fjord that forms one of the four main basins of the Puget Sound in my home state of Washington. It is the western-most portion of the Sound and can be identified easily on a map by its distinctive hook shape.
My grandparents built their summer home near the tip of the hook and a town called Belfair in the 1980s, so for as long as I can remember my family has been spending summers together on Hood Canal, boating, tubing, water skiing, swimming, barbecuing, fishing, digging for clams at low tide, and trying not to cut our feet on the barnacle-laden oyster shells that litter the beach.
In the event that our trip coincided with the Fourth of July, it was always that much more fun for us kids, thanks in large part to the house being located just a few miles from the Skokomish Indian Reservation on “The Great Bend” of the canal, making the purchase of powerful aerial fireworks and explosives all-too-easy for my brothers and male cousins who probably would’ve peed themselves with excitement at the mere thought of blowing stuff up.
But the close proximity of these fireworks was a treat for us all since our neighbors and every house on the edge of the canal for as far as the eye could see also purchased expensive and elaborate pyrotechnic supplies, providing us front-row seats to some of the best fireworks shows I’ve ever seen. And when you consider the fact that I spent two summers watching the million-dollar Fourth of July spectacle that takes place on the Hudson in NYC, that’s really saying something.
Putting on your own show is special in part due to the adrenaline rush that accompanies a mad dash away from a quick-burning fuse that you know has the potential to sever a limb should anything goes wrong, the ear-shattering bang that follows detonation, and the sizzling of errant sparks landing on your skin to remind you how close you actually were to serious bodily harm. (This year I was able to take comfort in the fact that our show was still infinitely safer than, say, Loi Krathong in Chiang Mai or New Year’s Eve in Cusco, so I just relaxed and enjoyed the beautiful and only mildly-frightening shows taking place around me.)
As we’ve gotten older, its been harder and harder to coordinate vacations to Hood Canal with the whole family for various reasons, and this year was no exception. And because the beautiful house has been so underused over the last decade, it was decided with little pomp and circumstance to finally put it up for sale–it went on the market last Saturday and was purchased in cash just two days later.
The news of the sale was a bit shocking, of course; none of us expected it to happen with such haste, much less as a cash offer not too far off from the initial asking price. Part of me was saddened as the reality sank in that the house would never again be ours to use, but at the same time I was excited by the thought of a new owner who actually had the time and ability to love it as much as we had (and maybe update it a little…the 80s were a bitchin’ time and all, but things change).
Knowing that it would be our last opportunity to use the house that we had created so many fond memories in, my mom, oldest brother and I (and the dog) went for one last Fourth of July to usher out a glorious era of sunburns, seafood and saltwater.
And having so many new subjects at which to point my camera, I went a little photo-crazy, but at least I’ll have some final memories to hold onto as my own memories of our house at Hood Canal eventually fade over time. I’ll let the photos tell the rest of the story.
Happy Independence Day, America!