Onions in the Stew
The war created nearly insoluble housing problems in Seattle, so when Betty MacDonald remarried during it, she and her new husband, Don, were unable to find anything suitable. They turned to the small islands within commuting distance, but tours of these islands turned up little available housing, at least of the suitable variety, until they found the perfect house on Vashon. Now all they had to do was learn to cope with island life.
They moved to Vashon in the fall, which wasn’t too bad, but then winter showed up and was tough on everyone. Unsurprisingly, Betty’s two teenaged daughters reached heights of unenthusiasm. Don and Betty’s commute had more in common with a marathon as they struggled to travel to the mainland daily. They nearly packed it all in that first winter, but spring came and the Island seduced them with her many different charms. The glories – and difficulties – of gardening on Vashon; the friendly and the less than lovable neighbors; the animals, starting with their own dog and cats, plus raccoons, deer and others. Their house was always full of guests, guests and more guests, and then there were the renovations, the machinery needing repairs, the undependable workmen, and what might go wrong next? All too familiar ground for most householders, but for MacDonald, these all included a slight island twist.
Eventually, MacDonald’s daughters do grow up into charming adults, in spite of an abrasive adolescence, and return to Vashon when they can to remembered the joys. This was Betty MacDonald’s last memoir before her untimely death from cancer – her farewell. Her tongue is still sharp and she still finds humor in ludicrous situations, quirky personalities, and self-turned jibes, and the whole rounds out the picture begun with the (golden) Egg. She knew she was dying, but that didn’t dry up her wit or dissuade her from enjoying the life she had. She was one amazing woman and a writer whose prose remains as vibrant and enjoyable today as it was when originally published.
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