“If I cannot fly, let me sing.”
“I think we’d better see it.” — Dee Simmons
Bellingham’s homey Toledo Hill neighborhood is a long way from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Fifty-five years away, in fact.
In case you’ve been living under a rock without wi-fi for the past month, the big news on Earth is that Bob & Dee Simmons have found a house. You’ll remember Bob & Dee as the lovable real estate hobby craft couple from Volume I of this epic. Though it has not yet closed, everything is going fabulously with their deal. So fabulously in fact, that they are attending a party at the house this weekend. The party is being hosted by the seller– the Simmons’ new best friend. Grown children and Realtors of both principals to the transaction will be in attendance. All the neighbors. It’s the craziest thing I’ve seen…
It’s not at all unbelievable these two parties would take to each other as they have– it’s just that it’s not normally like this. It isn’t that buyers and sellers necessarily despise each other by this point in a transaction– but they aren’t usually mass partying together, either. Traditionally, it is one of a Realtor’s crucial tasks to keep his or her client away from the other guy. The most-successful agents are the ones who can keep their people invisible to the other agent’s people the best– all the way through the transaction, no contact. Even after closing: strangers who would not recognize each other at the supermarket. Like unseen winds– whoosh.
I’m usually pretty good at that part, but not this time. By the end of the first accidental meeting between the Simmonses and their seller, the three were as old friends– talking long & deep about more than just the house. They liked the same things and they knew the same people. I knew I just had to stay out of the way.
It’s easy to understand. The seller is a very warm gentleman, and you just can’t not want to talk with Bob & Dee. Or sing with them.
Bob & Dee met singing together in Cedar Rapids in the mid 1950s. One of them was engaged, but the fiance wasn’t in the choir. Dee taught first grade, and Bob was a newsman. They were married two years later.
They moved to Hartford, Connecticut where Bob would accidentally strand Dee in her robe & curlers miles from home in the snow at 5am, before bragging about it on his morning radio show. Dee taught first grade and Bob moved from radio to television. Their first two children were born in between.
Bob outgrew the small market, and the family moved out west. To California. Swimming pools, movie stars and another child. And of course more singing.
Bob outgrew the big market in the late ’70s, and the family beat tracks to the Pacific Northwest, to a house in Lake Forest Park against which every house we saw together for eight years was measured in one way or another. (blogger’s note: I was never in that Lake Forest Park home, but some days I felt as though I’d grown up there.)
Everywhere the family went, Dee taught– first grade or kindergarten. Surely a 40-year trail of permanently-impressioned kids can be traced west and then north, following Mrs. Simmons’ migratory route. Dee is a lifelong teacher who still volunteers loyally in the Bellingham Schools, sharing her gifts of experience and her love for young minds.
I remember Bob’s news reports from KING5 news in the 1980s when I had television. Bob’s grown too handsome for the camera by now– but he still stays busy writing news, often working on a cover story for the Cascadia Weekly. Another hobby he’s taken up in his retirement is acting. After 80 years spent not acting in any plays, Bob has starred in five major productions in three years, including On Golden Pond and Into the Woods at the Mt. Baker Theater, and of course his very first mountain of a role, as Henry Drummond in the Bellingham Theatre Guild’s 2010 production of Inherit the Wind.
They both love to garden. They can name every tree, bush, or flower in any yard– I’ve never seen them stumped. I’ve seen them disagree– but even if a disagreement is not resolved, it doesn’t last. After 55 years of marriage, Bob & Dee appear very skilled at agreeing to disagree when necessary. I’ve seen couples skip past disagreement proceeding directly to arguing and eventual name-calling over mere shrubs before– it happens. But in spending time with Bob & Dee, you recognize how much genuine respect & affection there is between them– and it’s hard to imagine them arguing about much anything at all.
So what IS the key to a long and happy marriage? I think it’s the singing. But there’s more.
Staying active is important, of course. They’ve hiked the heck out of everywhere they’ve lived, and Dee is such a faithful member of the Bellingham Y that they’ve considered re-naming it the DYMCA.
Continued learning is important– one room in every house we ever looked at would be the library, with built-in bookshelves floor-to-ceiling.
Food is crucial- they love to cook and eat and Dee is one crafty baker.
But I still think it’s the singing.
The Simmonses have sung everywhere they’ve gone, either around the piano with their musical family, or in choirs of one type or another, including the Kulshan Chorus. Bob’s sang barbershop. He’s told me before– more than once, his hand on my shoulder– that there’s just nothing quite like the feeling of singing with other people. And I believe him, just as I believe everything he & Dee have ever told me.
So if you don’t have someone to sing with, go and find them. After that, call me and we’ll go look at some houses. I’ll have some time on my hands without Bob & Dee Simmons to hang around with anymore.