Sunday, December 1, 2019

When an address becomes a home

For a number of years the old signs on HWY 522
were removed. A few years ago private funding
enabled a new sign with the old slogan
to be erected in a downtown park.
When Jay and I got serious about simplifying our lives by moving from our home in Lake Forest Park  to a condominium, we were open to living just about anywhere in the northern part of Seattle or its suburbs. After a prolonged hunt for a place with all the amenities we wanted, we knew almost the minute we stepped inside the condo we ended up buying that it was right for us. Only one small drawback, we thought: it was in Bothell. And why did that bother us?

When we lived in Lake Forest Park, we'd travel through Bothell frequently. It has much-used Washington State Highway 522 running through it, so it's a necessary pass-through for a lot of destinations. Large signs used to greet drivers on both ends of the city limits: "WELCOME TO BOTHELL FOR A DAY OR A LIFETIME." You couldn't miss the signs; you couldn't avoid them; you simply had to read them as you sped through town. We used to laugh because we never spent any time in Bothell--it was just a place on the way to somewhere else. A day? What would you do for a whole day in Bothell? We used to launch our canoe on the Sammamish River in a Bothell park, but that was the only reason we ever stopped.

One of those Sunday mornings when Jay and I were on our way somewhere, one of the welcome signs had been roughed up by mischief-makers. We couldn't help ourselves and burst out in prolonged laughter. Instead of saying Welcome to Bothell, some smart-assed kid had sprayed out the BOT so the sign read, "WELCOME TO HELL FOR A DAY OR A LIFETIME." Even as we signed the mortgage papers several years later, Jay teased, "We're gonna do this, right? for a day or a lifetime?," adding, as he snickered, "and we hope it's not 'hell'."

Now, these nine years later, I realize I love living in Bothell. Why? Because with its population of 44,000, it's the just right size to be involved in as a citizen. There're plenty of ways an ordinary person can step up, help the city, and have a say in what's happening. In this era of feeling like we're being rolled over in so many ways, it's great to feel heard and seen as a citizen. I have friends in nearby cities who don't even know the name of their mayor, let alone recognize him if he were in the same grocery line. But by just occasionally attending city council meetings and participating in city feedback sessions, I recognize (and am recognized by) the city manager, council reps, and various members of city staff when I see them 'out and about.' It's empowering to feel visible and heard. I've had helpful conversations with city police and even sat down with the fire chief last year to help write a statement for a new fire station proposition in a voters' pamphlet.Yes,I try to be a good citizen, but my small gestures of help come back tenfold as a gift to me.

After telling the City Manager one afternoon in a community 'talk-back' session about a confusing left-turn lane by the library, it was fixed the next time I drove to the library! Thinking it was a happy coincidence, I mentioned it to her the next time I saw her. "Oh, Sara, we're so glad someone told us! We never would have known about it if you hadn't said something." And why am I writing about this today? Because Bothell made it on my 'gratitude list' this weekend--something I often overlook doing until our trusty Thanksgiving holiday brings it to my attention. Thank you, Bothell.

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