On Saturday I drove out to Grandview for my high school reunion — escaping Seattle’s 100 degree heat for Eastern Washington’s 100 degree heat. It had been four or five years since I’d been back. My parents were out of town, but my brother Justin Justin was there, sort of pacing around. Babe, my parents’ dog has gone blind. She sniffs and snorts around like a warthog or a mole, venturing outside only as far as her supper dish, and the cat sometimes sneaks food from the dog’s dish.
In town, Pizza Hut has setup across from the old Mary’s Mini Mart (which is now a bakery). It’s the only big chain restaurant in town besides Dairy Queen — the first since the A&W franchise became Dietrich’s twenty years ago. Safeway moved to the edge of town, leaving a drying out husk of Safeway and its weedy parking lot in the center of town.
The Seven-Eleven is now only a Seven.
Parts of the east-west railroad spur have been paved over and made into a bike path. There used to be a small railroad overpass behind the Dairy Queen, and Yakima Valley Highway — the main road through town — dipped beneath it. The bridge is gone and the dip filled in, making Grandview seem even flatter. There are fewer odd corners, twists, and blind spots.
The orchard across from my parents’ house was cut down during the spring of my senior year and later replaced with grapevines. The water tower (used to be blue, now it’s white) and the downtown Bleyhl’s grain elevator (now gone) were suddenly visible from the front lawn, landmarks that gave me a clearer sense of perspective on the layout of the town.
Maybe the biggest, if the least visible change, has been the coming of Wal-Mart. They’ve built a giant warehouse on the west edge of town, which ironically brings hundreds of new jobs to the area without negatively impacting local businesses.
My elementary school has been refurbished — a lot of the exterior has been replaced, a new wing added, and the playground was rearranged — the only equipment I recognize are the swing sets. One of my classmates — a girl who was often seated directly in front of or next to me in class because our names were adjacent alphabetically — teaches there.
The reunion was held out in the country, near Sunnyside. I couldn’t imagine most of my classmates as adults. But they were — most of them are married and many of them have kids. At least three people mentioned divorces. My best friend from kindergarden has a wife, two kids, and lives at the end of the street that he grew up on. He’s pumped up — he’s a couple of inches taller than me and several inches wider at the shoulders. He still lives on the road that he grew up on. Another friend is a pilot, he said he feels very satisfied in his parents’ old house with his wife and baby. He was worried about me.
I was ambivalent about going — I found high school boring and coped by sulking and putting on an air of detachment. I left town less then a week after graduation and have been back only four or five times. But I’ve grown up (some) and was happy to see my classmates and was warmly greeted.