My cousin Dorothy turned 99 a few weeks ago. Isn’t she adorable?
Note the large red creature in the bottom left-hand corner of the photo. That’s all she wanted for her birthday. Coming right up, I said! My husband and I stopped by this weekend on our way to see our older son in Seattle, and we cooked up a good old New England style lobster feed, adding the three C’s: homemade coleslaw, cornbread, and cupcakes. Yum.
Dorothy is actually my grandmother’s first cousin. She was born and raised on Nantucket, and moved to the Pacific Northwest right after World War II, when she and her first husband bought land in a remote corner of the Olympic Peninsula to homestead. She has awesome stories to tell. She walked across the Golden Gate Bridge the day it opened. She was shipwrecked in China. She was the first woman to manage the transportation department at Yellowstone National Park. She served as postmistress for many years in her tiny town in Washington State, too, and published a book about its history.
A few years back she took me to see the cabin where she once lived. The creek that rushes past it used to run so thick with salmon that you could practically walk across their backs to the other side, she told me. Besides providing good fishing, the homestead was rich with berries and fruit trees, and they had a garden where they grew all their own food. They raised chickens and goats for meat, eggs, and milk, and only had to drive into town for flour and staples. Unexpected dinner guests were never a problem, she said, showing me a photo of her pantry, whose shelves were lined from floor to ceiling with jars filled with every kind of food imaginable. She’d put them all up herself. Just thinking of the hours of work that represented left me speechless. And feeling like a slacker.
Dorothy still lives in her own home, a snug nest from whose vantage point she keeps tabs on the world, including all the doings back East (she’s subscribed to the Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror all her life). She has a wide circle of family and friends and is keenly interested in everything and everybody. She’s witty, cheerful, optimistic, fun-loving, and kind, and she has a heart as big as the world.
She’s my hero.
Happy birthday, Dorothy! I can’t wait to bring you lobster again next year.