Grandmother May and Neighbor Sam
Shelly Stiltner Parks
My maternal grandmother, Manetta (May) Witcombe Butts, passed away on Thanksgiving Day in 1937. My then 17-year-old mother, Margaret, was standing next to her mom, the two of them doing the Thanksgiving dishes when May collapsed and died.
This story, and so many others of her childhood growing up on Butts Road as the 9th child of 10 in a family with no money but lots of love, Margaret generously shared with me. Even though my grandmother May died a 25 years before I was born, I felt connected with her in a very real way.
As a child, we would often camp in the area where my mom grew up. A number of her brothers lived on and around Butts Road, this road named after the family. While the home my mom had grown up in had long since collapsed, I felt this valley with my uncles, their wives and kids, to be part of my heritage.
Fast forward to a few years ago and the beginning of my own story about May, Sam, Butts Road, her daffodils, and how Skagit Cohousing connected us in a glorious way.
When my Aunt Dottie passed away, the last of my mother’s family generation, I met the couple, April and Fred, who many years ago had built their home on the land my mom grew up on. They shared that they knew exactly where the Butts family home sat and they’d be happy to give me a tour of the site.
What a gift that day was. They told me stories I had never heard and even gave me a vase that they had found on the site of the Butts family home. No doubt this was a vase May had used.
I also met Sam that day. Sam lived on the Butts Road neighboring property, was a good friend of many of my cousins, and also had Butts family stories to share. My favorite one being about a potluck when every single person brought a potato salad.
One day a little over a year ago, my phone rang and the number said the call was coming from Morton, WA. Morton is a small town and is where my mom and her siblings graduated from high school. This call definitely caught my attention as I answered, “Hello, this is Shelly.”
“I’m calling about Skagit Cohousing,” the person said.
“I see you are calling from Morton. Is that where you live?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Do you know Butts Road? My mom’s family settled there.”
“I live on Butts Road.”
WHAT!!?? Turns out it was Sam calling. When I had met Sam as we toured the homestead, I had not shared my cohousing story. This call from Sam was simply a lovely twist of fate. We laughed and had a wonderful conversation. And Sam ended up joining us here at Skagit Commons.
As we were getting closer to moving into our homes, Sam sent me the following email:
‘I was just thinking that if you wanted I could bring some big clumps of the daffodils at an appropriate transplanting time that your grandparents grew on Butts Road since the daffodils are still growing strong.’
Sam moved in just a week ago and yesterday the two of us sat on a corner here at Skagit Commons and repotted a big bag of May’s daffodil bulbs. May would have planted these more than 100 years ago. The bulbs from May’s daffodils are now safely in pots and once we are settled in a little more, these flowers will find a more permanent home here on the Skagit Commons land.
My heart is so full because of this connection with Sam, his generosity in bringing me some of May’s flowers, and cohousing. I can’t imagine this happening without cohousing. I’m sure Sam and I would have never reconnected if he had not called me to inquire about a home here. I marvel at the way the threads of our lives connect and am so very grateful for this very sweet connection to the grandmother I never knew in person but who now feels very near to me.
Compiled by Member Rusty Kuntze
Below you will ﬁnd a short list of books that touch on the people, places and cultures that make the Skagit Valley such a special place. Included are works of ﬁction, non-ﬁction, poetry, and natural history. (Note: the ﬁrst three listed books each contain interviews, artwork and/or writings by Skagit Commons member Libby Mills).