We call it Soobie’s Island after my grandmother. Despite all the places we’ve been it remains the most special place in the world for me. My great, great grandfather, U.C. Bates, bought the island in 1919 after the first world war. The story goes that he was flying over in a Navy sea plane when he spotted a ‘For Sale’ sign on the land. He purchased it immediately for the grand sum of $6,000! We feel so lucky that it has remained in our family ever since and has been a special place for generation after generation. I think it would give him immense pleasure to know his great, great, great grandchildren walk its shores today.
My great-grandfather, Soobie’s father, built and decorated the house in the 1950s, and apart from minor renovations it has remained in the same condition ever since. He filled the house with mid century furniture, art and decorations, as well as Native American artwork and baskets (even some artefacts found on the island). It is a time capsule from the ’50s — a reminder of the years my great grandparents were alive and enjoyed this wonderful place. My great-grandfather’s stationery is still in the desks in his office, along with letters he wrote, the typewriter he used, and the books he read. Throughout the whole house there are reminders of my great grandparents, the times they enjoyed here and the lives they lived.
My grandmother, affectionately called ‘Soobie’, born Susan Scripps, grew up visiting this island with her sister — spending long summer days running around its paths, collecting sea shells and finding the beach treasures that had washed up on it. My mom and her siblings did the same, as did I, my siblings and our cousins. Generation after generation, meeting in the same magical place, walking the same paths, seeing the same sights, watching the same sun dip beyond that beautiful horizon across the sea.
There are photos of my grandma and her sister as young girls playing on the island, as well as photos of my mom and her siblings when they were little. Some of my favourite baby photos of me are from the island — a photo of me, 3 months old, in the arms of my great grandmother, sitting in the same arm chair that we sit in today. So many of my fondest childhood memories are from moments on this island, playing with my siblings, exploring tide pools, digging up treasures, building forts, picking veggies from the garden and raspberries from the berry patch, eating aebleskivers served by Soobie, playing cards at the card table, building card towers in the gazebo’s shaggy carpet.
I have a feeling when arriving on the island that is unlike any other for me. It is the same feeling I had when arriving as a little girl. Until this summer I would see my grandparents waiting on the dock, waving and welcoming us as we arrived in the little boat from nearby Lopez Island. Soobie always wore a bright red fleece and red lipstick (never mind that it was only family she was greeting), LP, my grandfather, always wore his matching shirt and shorts. Upon arrival, the familiar sights, sounds and smells of the island welcomed us; the dried moss that crunched under our feet, the root of the tree that always tripped us on the narrow path toward the house, the salty sea air mixed with the smell of evergreen pine needles, the dry summer grasses, the freezing cold water, the rocky beaches.
Returning as an adult revives all of the feelings from childhood and reminds me of those who enjoyed this place before me. Sadly, Soobie passed away last year while we were in Chile on our family gap year, but I feel her presence here more than anywhere. She’s in the sunset — I can hear her voice stating how ‘magnificent’ it is. I am reminded of the stories she told, the food she cooked, the way she always sat in the sunshine on a lawn chair in the same spot, how she always had the loudest ‘good morning’ greeting and how she always waved goodbye until you were completely out of sight. The last time I saw her was on this island, waving goodbye as she always did, as we set off for our year of travel.
I feel so grateful for this place and its traditions. To watch my kids explore this place just as I did, just as my mother did, just as my grandmother did, makes me happy in a way that is impossible to describe. I imagine my mother must have the same feelings when she brings us here. How lucky we are to have this place in our family. I hope to watch my grandchildren explore its welcoming shores one day.