Wednesday, January 18, 2023

The Queen of 44th

She was known as the Queen of 44th. She had lived near the corner of 44th and 212th, on the border of Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace, Washington, for years. I don't know a lot about her. I don't even recall her name. But what I do know is simple and profound.

Every morning, she sat in her wheelchair in front of her house, waving to passersby on the busy 44th Avenue West with a smile. When I walked by on her side of the street, she talked to me and always brightened my day. Sometimes even when I was walking on the other side, she would call to me and wave. Articles in the local newspaper reported that firefighters and other workers in stressful occupations looked forward to passing her house, because she was always there with a smile and a wave. She had a way of making tensions melt away in the simplest of ways!

Photo by De Visu/Adobe Stock
(I don't have a picture of the Queen of 44th,
so a stock photo it is!)

As the community continued to grow, developers wanted to buy her property to make way for retail space. But she refused. So while the houses around her disappeared to make way for Albertson's, Blockbuster, Little Caesar's, and other stores and restaurants, her house stayed there and she continued to wave to everyone around. As her mobility was declining, the community came together to replace the steps leading up to her door with a wheelchair ramp.

She was one of the most beloved people in the community.

Over the years, there has been a lot of change. Albertson's is now Safeway. Blockbuster is now O'Reilly Auto Parts. Her house is now an empty lot. But that stretch of sidewalk and that lot where a house once stood with a kind old woman in a wheelchair remains, a memory of a time gone by and someone who taught me the deep, profound value of a simple smile and wave. Kind deeds can be complicated, but they don't need to be. Sometimes all a person needs to brighten their day is a kind smile, a wave, a friendly greeting.

Considering how much time has passed since then, I'm sure she has passed on by now. I'm not sure what happened to her when she no longer sat along 44th and brightened everyone's day. But she left a profound legacy, even to a teenager who hardly knew her, and now thinks back more than 20 years later to remember. 

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