Christmas Day arrived, clear and white with frost. All seven of our children were spending their Christmases elsewhere, most of them far away. We’d thought Larry might come by bus from Spokane, but since he has no cell phone, no computer, and has never (so far as I know) written a letter, we just didn’t know if he’d show up. By noontime, we’d heard nothing so we decided to pack a picnic and enjoy a Christmas mini-getaway.
We drove over the tree-shaded, frost-coated Mountain Loop Highway to the Robe Valley, one of our favorite getaway spots. I grew up here, and it’s still home. We reached the Hemple Creek campground by 1:30. The sun had already dropped behind Mt. Pilchuck, throwing the empty park into twilight. We parked beside the Stillaguamish, looking upriver to where the sun still lit the Gold Basin cliffs. The picnic tables and benches glistened with frost crystals, so we opted to enjoy our home-made clam chowder and egg-salad sandwiches in the comfort of our van. While eating, we watched the shadows creep from the river toward the top of the cliffs.
Still thinking that Larry might find his way to our house and worried we’d not know he’d been there, Hank wished aloud that we had one of those leave-a-note boxes people used to hang beside their front doors.
I’d completely forgotten about those, but suddenly in my mind I saw the box we had, back in the days when we didn’t own a telephone and people often dropped by unannounced. My grandfather had crafted it of brown-varnished wood to look like a little house with a peaked roof. It was about 6 inches high and only an inch or so deep, with a door nearly the size of the entire front. The hook that held the door closed was also the doorknob. Scrawled across the front in yellow paint, “Leave a Note” announced its purpose. If we weren’t home, a visitor could write a message with the pad and pencil kept inside.
When the family returned from an excursion, the first person to the porch flipped open the little door and checked the message pad. It was like checking our telephone or e-mail messages today. If neighbors had stopped by, it was easy enough to walk down the road to see them. But if we’d missed friends or relatives from Granite Falls or Snohomish, there were always groans of disappointment. We had missed a chance for face-to-face contact and fun.
On the way back to town, Hank and I passed my childhood home with all its happy memories of Christmases past. I’m sure the people who now live there have no need of a “Leave a Note” box. But a thought flitted through my mind…do they ever wonder about the history that lingers in the little house where they are busy making their own memories? I hope they’re leaving happy “notes” for their children to remember.