All the years – mixed up, sorted out and shared

By Joanne Peterson | May 05, 2016

It’s hard to imagine writing 575 consecutive weekly Beacon columns without missing one deadline – but what a privilege.

I learned about deadlines in high school. My Edmonds High School journalism teacher George Selvidge suggested I go to the University of Washington, earn a degree in journalism and hire on as a reporter at the Seattle PI or Times.

He was only half kidding. None of this actually happened, but in retrospect, I approve his plan. In high school journalism, my favorite class ever, he taught me a lot about writing concisely and correctly – and about deadlines.

My first regular newspaper column appeared in the Edmonds High School Wireless when I was 17, a senior, the editor of the paper.

For some reason, I decided to call the column “Here’s What I Like” … by Frank. Yes, Frank. I have no idea why. I denied my teacher’s request that since I insisted upon using Frank as my byline, I should at least call myself Frank Lee. No. That was way too cute.

As an alleged grown-up, returning to Edmonds and to column-writing as part of a community in which one out of five residents is over 65, I’d expect to write a column from a different perspective than that of a 17-year-old high school senior.

I fondly remember an elderly woman friend telling me years ago, “Don’t think your heart will change, dear, just because you get older. At heart, you will always feel 21.” I loved that. It’s true – my heart hasn’t changed much.

Sure, I’ve had a family, jobs, friends, travels, struggles and achievements. I have grandchildren and celebrate the privilege. One of them soon will be a teenager, complex and amazing. She was three when I started writing this column.

I’ve felt great sorrow – though no more than others have – and joys that at 17 or 21 or 47 I wouldn’t have recognized.

I hurt for people struggling with homelessness, hunger, family discord, health problems, loss and depression, and I ponder those issues. It’s more fun to write about happier topics—the delight of living near the beach I played on as a child, reading sweet inscriptions on memorial benches and bricks, watching cruisers hurrying in at dusk, hearing teen-agers laughing on the boardwalk, sharing travel experiences--or simply walking through Edmonds, appreciating my home town. Sometimes I write about squirrels or clutter or my amazing brother.

In any case, many of those 575 weekly columns have come from my heart. Other people reading about my early years in small town Edmonds say my childhood reminds them of their own, in other small towns. Younger people say I sound like their mom. I like that.

A writer writes what he or she knows and cares about. For me, that includes moving to Edmonds at age 7, cowboy movies with my grandpa at the old Princess Theatre, boating with my dad, years of Christmases and childhood Camano Island summers. All the years, mixed up, sorted out – and shared.

You’ll keep hearing from me, every other week. I’m still glad I’m home again in Edmonds.




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