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Washington Voices

Love affair with region still growing

Sat., Oct. 23, 2010

Autumn had some nerve showing up in early September. It gave my husband Richard and me a jolt of deja vu as we marked the silver anniversary of our moving to Spokane Valley.

We came here from Southern California because we wanted to live in a beautiful place with meaningful community, where we had a better chance of owning our own home. We’d visited and loved the area, the eclectic preservation-oriented downtown, the unpretentiousness, and the friendliness.

Soon after that Richard received a job offer; after a mad scramble and an adventurous U-Haul trip, we pulled up to our Sullivan Road apartment on a gloomy, cold September day in 1985. Expecting summer weather, we’d worn light clothes, but there was an early fall weather pattern just like now and we shivered into town in a truck with a broken heater.

Yet from the moment we arrived, we felt at home.

We weren’t used to neighborliness, so were touched by a warm welcome from some of Richard’s new co-workers, who arrived to help us unload, the first of many kindnesses we experienced.

Within a couple days I ditched unpacking, hunted down the library, and got my library card. Hey, I knew what was important.

We soon met new friends at church and began discovering the pleasures of living in the Valley. Enjoying varieties new to us, we bought produce from local growers; later we’d pick berries and grow some ourselves. We liked the sensible, down-to-earth pace of life and attitudes here, and explored the area in its autumnal splendor.

Still, we had a big challenge right off. One sub-freezing, snowy November midnight I had a medical crisis. Not sure where the ER was, we managed to slide there in our old Nova. After Christmas I had major surgery, which got me down a bit, but when Richard brought me home, our neighbor had fixed us a delicious dinner. A big bonus was gaining a wonderful doctor who would be our physician for 25 years.

We began to feel part of the community, attending art shows and other events. Although we knew few people, it was delightful that we always seemed to run into them when we were out and about. Over time we made lifelong friends and watched their kids grow up.

Although we enjoyed the snow, it was a long winter, and the first warm, sunny, spring day made me dance across our living room. Summer was delightful; with grass an eye-shattering green, colorful flowers, clear, fragrant air and magical twilights.

A year and a half after our move we fulfilled two dreams: buying a home and adopting our first cat, Musette. We’ve owned three homes within the same two miles, and a cat has graced each one.

Another dream came true for me in early 2000, when I was invited to be a columnist for the Voice. Although a little intimidating at first, writing for the paper has been very rewarding; it’s a privilege to be a public voice in our community and interact with readers.

Autumn’s sneak attack has been a great reminder of our early days in Spokane and the Valley. We love living here now even more than when we were first enraptured, and still trying to figure out downtown’s one way streets.

Those streets may still sometimes be confusing, but once we exited that wheezing, freezing U-Haul truck and began our new life here, we never once looked in the rearview mirror.

The leaves are turning again, and we’re still looking ahead.

Deborah Chan can be reached at


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