Over the years our lives can be woven together with the lives of our neighbors by kind words and kind acts, like hundreds of little threads binding our lives together in a place.
I was struck by this as I spoke with Barb (Hayes) Noste at their family home on Port Susan Terrace. It was a beautiful, sunny day. The water was a smooth as glass. Mount Baker reflected in the water. Barb greeted me warmly and hugged me. We sat at the table on the front porch (on the Island the front of the house is the side that faces the water) and we talked.
To prep for my interview with Barb I had asked my mom to remind me about our family’s history with Barb’s family who had been neighbors of ours living less than a mile north of us down Port Susan Terrace Road.
Barb’s father, Dr. Donald C. Hayes, had practiced dentistry in Stanwood from 1959-1995. What I knew was that Dr. Hayes had been our family dentist, that he was a very good dentist and had always been warm and interested in my life. I remembered seeing him run on the road between our homes. Don loved to swim and would do so from Memorial Day well into September. He would even swim before work to get a little exercise in.
Mom told me that like most children I had not enjoyed going to the dentist and that on one visit to Dr. Hayes I had “fallen asleep” in the car ride down and had managed to sleep through the whole dentist appointment; of course I had not really been asleep, but that was my way of escaping reality.
Mom told me how when I was about seven years of age, my sister April was four, and my brother Jed a newborn, a small group of neighbors had formed a Bible Study, who Patty Paige had been a vibrant part of that study and so had Don and Audrey Hayes. Most of the time the group met at Patty’s home or the Hayes home, but sometime it met at our humble home that didn’t even have real doors but only curtains on our bathroom and bedrooms being very poor in those days with dad a full-time artist and all. Mom shared how Patty how described our little house to another person as the home “where the roses grow over the fence.”
Mom told me that one Christmas Donald and Audrey had brought beautifully wrapped gifts to our house. They had shared with mom and dad, and April, Jed and I how they talked it over with their kids and decided that they didn’t need presents that Christmas and thought it would be nice to give presents to us that year instead. Mom told me how they were nice, expensive presents. She remembers that the gift for April was a pretty teal winter coat with a hood; how it was long and soft like velvet on the outside, and on the inside a kind of cream, cute fur, like a princess coat. The memory of this kindness brought tears to mom’s eyes.
Don and Audrey Hayes supported my dad and mom in other ways too. I spotted a couple of my dad’s paintings in their home.
Mom told me how after she had been diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2015 she and dad had been driving out of the parking lot of Camano Chapel and had seen Dr. Hayes walking out from the service and had stopped to talk to him. They had told him about mom’s cancer diagnosis and upcoming treatment. And he had said “Oh you should talk to Barbara. It would be good to get together with Barbara.” It turns out that Barbara had just been through cancer treatment herself. Mom didn’t pursue it at that time. But a few weeks later Barbara called her out of the blue and asked if she could stop by. Barbara brought quite a few hats for mom to wear and had all kinds of helpful hints and was as mom put it “so nice and supportive.”
So all of this was in my mind when I met with Barb who shared with me more of the history of her family and their relationship to Port Susan Terrace Beach.
Donald had met his wife Audrey in Alaska. She had four kids at that time. Barb says that her dad would tell her the story that he had said to Audrey that he would marry her if he could have another four kids with her, (with a smile on his face)! And she had said “you bet.” And they did. Eight kids in all.
Don & Audrey Hayes moved to Stanwood, Washington in 1959. When Dr. Hayes set up his practice that year they had originally lived – all ten of them: Donald and Audrey, Sharon, Gary, Steve, Tom, Mary, Ann, Jim and Barb the youngest – in a modest house on Cedarhome Drive in Stanwood. Don & Audrey bought a lot on Port Susan Bay on a beach with the bay’s namesake called Port Susan Terrace which is on the east side of the island. The family spent their summers there and soon built a small beach home. When Barb was four they moved there full time.
The Hayes family would later build another home down the road on the same beach.
Barb and I walked north to their family’s first home on Port Susan Bay.
And as we walked told me about each of their neighbors from when she was a child. There were the Ceis’s who lived at the northernmost home and who had kids a little older than the Hayes children. Then there was the Hopen family who lived in an A-frame and whose dad had once owned Glasply boats before it went bankrupt. They had three kids the same age as the Hayes kids named Debbie, Vickie and Chris. Barb said, “Their home was the most fun place to be at. They had the best snacks and you could get away with murder.”
Next was Dr. Lance and his family. Then the Powell’s, and then it was the first Hayes house. Next to them was the VandeGeest home, and next to them the Hickocks. Barb shared how Gene Hickock who had been the president of the Port Susan Terrace Association had passed away just a few months after her dad’s passing. Continuing south down the beach were the Johnson, Tronson, Ogden, Rasmussen and the Bettgers’ beach homes. Behind Rasmussen’s, on the other side of the road, were the Chamberlain and Sortland families. Next came the Bohon’s and the Rondeau beach homes. Barb shared how Jim Rondeau used to referee professional boxing. Next to Rondeau’s was the Burn’s family who had 4 kids the same age as the younger Hayes children. Then came the Hayes home (a different family with the same last name) and then Donald and Audrey Hayes’s new home they build in 1976. South of the more recent Hayes home was the Rust family who had a son named Bret who was a year older than Barb. And furthest south, the last home on the street, was the Will’s place which is a sprawling estate with amazing grounds. Though there are now newer families and beach homes that share the beach, many of the families from years ago have passed down their beach homes to the next generations.
As Barb shared I realized that here in this place all of these lives had been woven together with years and years of memories, acts of kindness and neighborliness: like helping each out when the water washed over the bulkhead and flooded the yards, which it does every five years or so.
Barb shared how the kids had grown up together and had been free to roam for hours.
They would go the cove to the south where the water was warmer and swim and play.
They would catch bullheads, get an old grill, start a fire and cook them. They would take a rowboat out to the cove to the north and net crab in the shallow water. They would build multi-level rafts using hammers, nails and ropes.
They would play on the big rope swing in the back lot. They kept busy with their escapades and tried to stay out of trouble. Barb said that when they got older waterskiing became the big thing. Many beach residents had boats and they had gotten pretty good at waterskiing.
Talking with Barb was a window into their world: I learned how Dr. Hayes had played the accordion as a young man and continued to play it even as recent as a few weeks before he passed away, how he loved to fish and hike. Audrey and Don and many of their children fished in both the Puget Sound and in the oceans off the Washington coast and Vancouver Island and continue that tradition to this day. How Audrey had been a homemaker and on top of raising eight kids took care of the office bookkeeping. Late at night she would put all the bills and receipts and paperwork on the table and straighten out the books and take care of the paychecks, often working to one or two in the morning.
But most of all from Barb I saw how her family and neighbors and, in a way, all of our lives had been woven together over the years there in that place. And I reflected on how just like the long warm days of summer softly merge into the crisp short days of fall, and the low tide gives way to the hide tide, those magic days of childhood couldn’t last forever.
I asked Barb what their family home and the beach meant to her now. She said that it is such a peaceful place but that somehow it was different now. That it was very sad and lonely without the people who made it is so alive.
Barb told me how when her mom was in hospice care the family had made a commitment to keep her at the house not put her in a nursing home. She told me how her dad had cared for his beloved Audrey around the clock. On the days she had enough energy he would push her wheelchair in front of the glass windows that looked at Mount Baker. There she would do jigsaw puzzles; she loved and watched the beautiful scenery. Barb said that her mom had watched the sky above Mount Baker for so many years that she could predict, based on the cloud configurations, when it would rain: “It’ll rain in three days” she would say; and she would be right!
During those Hospice months (January through August 2013), Barb came every night from her home on Camano to attend to her medical needs and to get her mom ready for bed. The only reprieve for her dad was when one of the children would come out to help with mom’s needs. She told me how just a few short years after her mom passed away, her dad followed.
Barb said “it’s the tides of life. Things change. And you just focus on all the blessings you have and that you have had.”
One of those blessings is the family home on Port Susan Terrace that looks out at the sunrise over the Cascades and that can catch the sunset to the northwest.