An Untold Life: Linnea Long
By Maggie Nicholson
As a child, Linnea Long was the tallest of her friends. She didn’t like to stand up straight. She thought of herself as the great big girl. She was a Girl Scout Brownie and carried a boxy camera on a string around her neck.
Her parents named her Linnea after the Linnaea flower. The flower was a favorite of Swedish botanist Karl Linnaeus. Linnea was of Scandinavian descent. She loved her light blonde hair, the color of pollen. She often sat in direct sunlight, soaking it into her roots. It was a pallid shade of blonde, almost white. Her hair was very fine and would break easily if tugged. “You know when you get a piece of hair in your mouth and you’re like, yuck! And pull the thread out?” asks her husband David. “With Linnea, it wasn’t like that. It was so fine, it would almost dissolve.”
When she sat outside, her light-colored hair attracted bumblebees. This dissuaded her from camping. She hated bugs.
She grew to be nearly six feet tall. She also grew thin and lovely. Her only concern with height was derived from the attention she received because of it. She wanted to notice the world and others as an undetected observer. She didn’t want to be noticed herself.
Linnea’s mother Carol was a successful businesswoman. She sold crystal-ware designed for everyday use. The pieces were elegant and engraved with wheat patterns. The crystal was sold and presented in a fashion similar to Avon sales, with individual hostesses and households. Carol was in charge of the entire territory west of the Mississippi River. She made enough money to buy her own jet-plane and hire a personal pilot. She flew all over the place, but always stayed in the small rambler she owned in Torrance, California.
Linnea had one younger brother, John and one older sister, Colleen. The family lived next door to Linnea’s best friend, Laurie. Linnea referred to Laurie’s mom as Auntie Lou. The two girls were like sisters. They had tin can cup-phones running on a string between their bedroom windows. The name Laurie followed Linnea throughout her life. Anyone named Laurie had a head start in Linnea’s life. “Oh Laurie!” she’d think. “I know you!”
There was little to do in Torrance, California. Linnea developed a deep love for books and the beach. She graduated from law school and worked as a junior partner and research assistant with a real estate attorney. She met David Benton in 1981, when they were both living in Newport Beach, CA. She was 28 and into the Cali surf culture. David had moved down from Seattle, following a job offer.
In 1987, David convinced her to move north to Seattle with him. They married that same year. Linnea had always dreamed of visiting Hawaii. They arranged to have their wedding in Mauna Kea.
When they arrived on the island, they were greeted by volcanic black sludge coating the ground, where Linnea had expected wafting palm trees. She almost cried; it was so foreign from what she had imagined. When they reached the beach, however, her dreams were reaffirmed. The white sand was as soft and fine as talcum powder. At night they shined flashlights at the dark blue water and watched manta rays appear at the surface of the ocean. Their wedding on October 10th was filled with heart-shaped anthurium flowers.
When they returned to Seattle, Linnea worked part-time jobs until she passed the bar in Washington. The couple lived in Queen Anne until 1990, when Linnea’s pregnancy inspired them to purchase their first house. They moved to West Seattle, and their son Erik was born on October 2nd, 1990. October would forever be a month filled with celebration for the family, holding both their anniversary as well as the birthday of their only child.
Linnea worked for Time Oil, as part of their legal team. In 1996, she went back to school and achieved a secondary graduate degree, this time in Library Sciences. In 2005, she began working her dream job, as part of the team at Avvo. She was passionate about the accumulation and reorganization of information in the digital age. She also took the water-taxi to work, which she adored, and the family had moved into their home on Alki. It was an ideal time for Linnea, who loved to jog and ride her bike through the flat streets that lined the water.
She was laid back; she smoked pot in college and drank white wine occasionally. Nothing filled her heart with more happiness than her son Erik. She had a way of making strangers feel comfortable and intimate around her. She could ask personal questions immediately with a genuineness and warmth that made new acquaintances feel like family. Her husband David recalls that he, too, developed an instantly deep connection with her.
Though Linnea passed away in May of this year, her memory lingers. She sits on a stool in her blue patterned wood kitchen, a newspaper open and flat before her. Her light yellow hair is illuminated by sun leaking in through the window. She has turned a radio news station on and looks over to where Erik is sitting in the kitchen, at the desk David built for him. He is doing homework. She smiles.
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