My son flew out to meet us in Seattle, his first visit as an adult. We walked around looking at all the things we both remember from our separate childhoods, and all the things that have changed.

The Pike Place Market is largely recognizable, and although I no longer know the people serving, the donut robot is still churning out little bits of fried deliciousness (enjoyed vicariously by celiac members of the family).

It is easy to spot a local, even in my small family. The kid who came of age in London jaywalks, while I stand obediently waiting for the light to change. We could hear passerby speaking in the regional accent (it annoys my son that I revert whenever I spend more than a few hours here) but it was like listening to ghosts.

I grew up on the Puget Sound and lived in the Pacific Northwest for the first 33 years of my life, my kid lived here until age six, but neither of us had a chance encounter with lost friends or misplaced blood relatives. Instead, he stumbled across people he met in college in rural Vermont, and I randomly encountered colleagues from London and New York.

This is the first time he’s been back since my mother died, and her loss changes how we experience the city. There is no longer any reason to ride the ferry out to the peninsula, no excuse to go to Randy’s, no binge of thrift stores and swap meets. We miss her all the time, but the feeling is more visceral in Seattle.

The city feels familiar but uncanny. It is eerie being in a place we know so well, after the people we loved best are gone.