Island Voices

The Strength of Pretend

By Deborah H. Anderson

Finding the perfect cinnamon roll at the Edmonds Bakery was a moment of bliss. Huge, spirally, gently baked, lightly glazed, with hidden chunks of nut pieces in the inner fold’s perfection brought unparalleled mouth happiness. Saturday afternoon delight, for sure. 

Smithsonian Free Museum Day drew me to Edmonds. The drive to my other choice, the Tacoma Glass Museum, would have been untenable given Revive I-5 and a sinkhole on 405. Looking north found me enjoying the Edmonds Historical Museum and a leisurely stroll to their central downtown feature. A majestic canopy of mature deciduous branches, a water fountain in the center of the brick-paved roundabout, and eateries on all four corners gathered a continuous stream of cars circling for parking and pedestrians deciding which direction to walk. The city presented a more sophisticated, less-rustic version of Vashon’s four-way stop, like a landmark garden, save for one difference.

As I sat on the painted and polished black, slated metal bench outside the bakery, I heard at least a dozen different languages: Eastern European, Asian, Spanish, English, Middle Eastern, and saw one couple signing American Sign Language. A linguistic symphony filled my ears with joy.

When I finally allowed myself to be pushed off the Island by real estate challenges and semi-retirement from being a caregiver for special needs families, I was terrified. Like some character from the Brazilian Netflix Show “3%” (simplistically described as the war between the 97% have-nots and the 3% haves), after 25 years of, “Vashon is the best, most friendly, culturally and artistically diverse, beautiful, peaceful place,” it was daunting to move from “Offshore” to “Inland” (using the terms from the show). Re-registering as a “Summer Person” was daunting. 

Landing in Crossroads, the area in Bellevue I lovingly call “Bill Gates Plantation,” workers from around the world who come to serve a bigger, better Microsoft, flood Trader Joe’s at dinnertime. Watching a man with two elementary-age children bent over the frozen food section, phone to ear, describing choices in some Southeast Asian language, made my heart sing. I love diversity.

Me on an Island with a ninety-percent-ish white-dominant culture population probably wasn’t the best fit, I’ll admit. I have always lived in culturally, racially, and economically diverse communities. When I hear people complaining about how Vashon is changing, I think to myself, “Do they realize the whole nation is changing?”

Finally, I settled into my digs, 12 blocks north of the neighborhood in which we lived before moving to Vashon way back when. Ahhh…the mainland! Fifteen minutes to full-service 24/7 medical care. Blocks from a variety of diverse restaurants and walk-up food windows. My Buy Nothing Club has the same small-town feel and friendliness Vashon espouses. If there’s a traffic jam, there is always an alternate route. And the night I left the car open by accident and nary a thing was taken. No trauma. No drama. I could go to the store and be in and out in five minutes. The mainland was no worse than Vashon. 

There’s a Facebook post quoting Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy: “It’s the writer’s job to tell society what it pretends it doesn’t know.”

Pretend. My friends who belong to AA, in recovery, talk about “The strength of pretend.” Apparently, it’s when a person doesn’t want to face the real truth about circumstances and pain. A false narrative is created about how good things are.

From the mainland, I can say that Vashon has some serious issues to acknowledge and discuss. Floating privilege, an elite Island community, isn’t really trending right now. Does that seem harsh? The reality of that is very harsh. It just is. No answers, just questions: How does Vashon need to change? What does Vashon need to give up? How can Vashon find a way into an ethical future that mirrors the nation’s experiences?

September 27, 2022

About Author

deborah Deborah Anderson returns to write the occasional column for The Loop after a hiatus following twelve years writing “Positively Speaking.” She is currently working on several writing projects including her memoir called “An Irregular Life” and a novel “One Dog, Two Cats, Three Chances” about a widow who moves from the city with her children to a small rural Island in the Delaware River. She loves children, animals, music, books, and adventure. She is a woman of faith. She believes no matter what, love remains.