She’s full of life and has had a full life, thus far. Welcome to Mazama for the next chapter!
I first met Tani Erickson at a small “dance” party in the lobby of the TwispWorks building that houses our local radio station, KTRT. My three sons – who used to DJ in Seattle as Snap, Crackle & Pop – were playing some tunes and a small gathering of music and dance lovers were jiving to the beats. Tani loves to dance and she was there with her million-dollar smile just enjoying the tunes and the scene. She told me of her plans to begin teaching a Zumba class.
Our next encounter was at a pre-winter meeting of the Boomers Ski Club at the Methow Valley Ciderhouse. Again, charismatic Tani was enthusiastic about the upcoming ski season and the annual trek to Big White before Christmas. I went down one run with her at Big White that year and lost her in the pea soup fog, cruising down while I was struggling to figure out whether I was upright or sideways in the abominable flat light.
Soon St. Patrick’s Day arrived with the great Celtic music of Hank Cramer at the Methow Valley Ciderhouse. Again, there was Tani serving draft beers (no surprise); but, the unexpected was when she stepped up with the band and in a crystal clear voice filled the room with an Irish ballad. Later, I learned that she belonged to a folk group in Seattle called The Classmates (since they had all graduated the same year) that entertained residents of retirement homes with the Old Standards.
Before COVID, I attended a Methow At Home workshop facilitated by Jane Hill to speak about my experience with writing a memoir. There across the table sat Tani. Each of the ladies read something they had written. When it was Tani’s turn, her story and voice lit up the room. It was a children’s story about a little girl who loved being in the bathtub so much that she grew webbed feet. Not only was the story engaging, but the way Tani read it made it just spring to life. She said she had actually used that incredible skill recording audiobooks for the blind.
OK, by now I’m thinking that Tani must be Methow’s Forrest Gump. Maybe she created that emoji with the gigantic smile!
I found out at the writing workshop that Tani was going to become my neighbor, as she was to be moving into the McKinney Ridge Neighborhood developed by the Methow Housing Trust in Mazama. She said she would be the first, and only, “elder” in a neighborhood of “cool kids.” I told her when she was settled, I’d love to visit her and write a column about her journey.
Tani is now comfortably ensconced in her brand new cozy house nestled in the pines in the McKinney Ridge Neighborhood. Her housing journey to her “elder” years has been unique. Many years ago, her first housing investment was on a ridge overlooking the Puget Sound in West Seattle. Who would have known that someone excavating below would dislodge the home from its bearings and send it tumbling into a pile of rubble down the hillside? That loss of investment did not help with equity building for her future housing.
A rustic cabin that she later bought on Upper Beaver Creek was destroyed in the Carlton Complex Fire, albeit after she had sold it. However, she had still been using it as a getaway since a friend had bought it. She loved the place and the Methow.
After ending her late-in-life 10-year flight attendant career (she doesn’t like to call it “retiring”) and having searched West Side housing within her budget, she bought a little cottage in Twisp. With her love of the Methow, it was a more desirable option to her than a mobile home in Shelton. However, looking into the future, she wondered how she would ever be able to keep up with the maintenance and repairs on her minimal fixed income – not to mention that she was always cold. The house just couldn’t contain the heat needed to feel comfy in the winter.
Tani talks openly about the options for someone growing older while still mobile and able in the Methow. The choices are few: some subsidized apartments, moving in with children, or move out of the valley – until the Methow Housing Trust began providing permanent affordable housing for those who qualify – young and old. Tani applied, which is her best advice to those in an unsustainable housing situation. She says, “Don’t disqualify yourself. At least talk to them because they will make every effort to help you.”
Tani “right-sized” her stuff to fit into her new little space and what an amazing job she has done of decorating her two-bedroom home replete with Western movie posters. Her postage-stamp-sized fenced yard overlooks the community garden with Lucky Jim Bluff as the backdrop. She loves the community of neighbors, the “cool kids,” and exudes contentment. She says like Scarlett O’Hara, “I will never be cold again.”
Update: Porky the porcupine is doing well. Her quills are almost grown back. She is becoming a little feisty about getting back outdoors. Good job, Riley Wisdom! We are all rooting for you and Porky.