Waking up in Our New Home

 

Dear Liza,
This morning I woke up in Portland. I had slept on the carpet in the basement of our new house, because the truck our furniture is in will take a few days to get here.
Normally, falling asleep in a strange place is hard for me. Strange sounds and smells feel scary and I keep waking up.
But yesterday Auntie Bridgett and I drove all the way from our old house Salinas to our new house in Portland…. it took 14 hours! We stopped at Granzella’s super nifty deli for sandwiches and to let Mouse the cat out of her carrier to use the cat box. She was surprisingly cooperative and we were able to continue up over Mount Shasta and across the border into Oregon.

We stopped for our first meal in Oregon: jam sandwiches, cheese, and carrots, eaten standing by the car at the Valley of the Rogue Rest Stop. The heat and sunshine, smell of the lodge pole  pines, and sound of kids and dogs playing nearby made it a lovely way to celebrate our new state.
Somewhere around the middle of the Willamette Valley, we realized this was indeed a very long drive. But we were determined to get home that night. As we approached Portland, we had google maps guide us in. We knew we could figure the house in a round about way, but we were tired and wanted a direct route. Coming down a steep hill on a section of the road called The Terwilliger Curves, we saw the city and river spread out like a sparkly blanket under the soft pinky grey sunset. We crossed the Marquam Bridge with Mt. Hood, all lovely and pink, ahead of us in the distance. We swooped north past the glass towers of the Convention Center and exited the freeway onto 33rd street, just north of our lovely, quiet neighborhood.
And there we were: Home! During the next hour, we unpacked the kitchen stuff we had brought, all the plants, moved Mouse and her toys into the downstairs bedroom, took a shower, and called Grandpa Nelson to let him know we were home and okay. I meant to write you, but I was so tired, I fell right asleep.
Today Auntie Bridgett and I have shopped for groceries at Whole Foods, gotten shelf paper and a small microwave oven at Fred Meyer to set up the kitchen, picked up postcards at Powell’s, and had lunch at McMinamen’s Baghdad Cafe. I am tired all over again! Grandpa Nelson is still in Salinas making sure all our furniture is loaded on the truck and then your daddy will drive him to the San Jose airport and fly up so he can be home, too.
This is the hardest part of moving, besides saying good-bye to you, your mommy and daddy: Moving my idea of home from one place to another. The last few weeks, while we have been packing, we have slowly been taking our special stuff out of our old home, making it more of ‘just a house’. And as we move those same special things into this new house, it will become more of our home. It won’t happen all at once, I know. But it will happen. People are very good at adapting to new places and new situations. Especially when we have such an interesting city to explore!

love,

Grandma Judy

The New People

Dear Liza,

Today was our last day of packing. Our refrigerator is almost empty, our clothes are in suitcases, and even Mouse’s cat carrier is set up for her trip north with us Monday. We have filled up a dumpster with all sorts of bits of lumber, old art projects, broken machinery, and cabinets with no legs.

Today we also met the new people who will be buying our house! They are a very nice couple named Ryan and Kayla. They are a little younger than Grandpa Nelson and I were when we bought the house. They are expecting their first baby very soon.

I love the idea of a new baby and a new family growing up in this house. We have poured so much love and care into it, it can’t help but be a happy home. The flowers we transplanted from Great-Grandma Billie’s house are here. The lemon tree Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett planted still  gives great lemons. And all the roses I have pruned and loved are still making the world more beautiful.

I keep having a carousel of feelings. Excited for the trip, then sad to be leaving our home. Happy to see Jasper and Kestrel, then sad to be leaving you. Up and down, up and down, around and around. No wonder I am dizzy!

Love, Grandma Judy

Last Fourth in Salinas

Dear Liza,
The Fourth of July in Spreckels, California, is something special. It’s not big, loud, or fancy. The town itself is only about 8 blocks square. But going there for Independence Day morning is like walking through a warm, friendly hug.
The parade is mostly an antique car show, with a generous addition of kids on bikes and scooters. The people in the cars throw candy to the people in the front row, who then toss it back to the people who are too far away to get any. Everyone had so much fun!
Going there, I knew I was guaranteed to meet at least a dozen folks I know, and I was not disappointed. We ran into Alex Carrillo and his boys, a friend of yours from summer camp, parents of former students, and even Mr. Jim Ross Riley, talking to everyone from the roof through his microphone.

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Who I will miss the most

Local baker Adrian Jimenez from Blue Aces had all sorts of goodies, and other booths selling Indian, Mexican, Filipino food and burgers and hot dogs lined the tiny, very crowded street and made sure everyone got lunch.
After a much needed rest for everyone, we all got back together at Rick’s and Kevin’s house for our last fireworks show together on their driveway. Your daddy and Grandpa Nelson helped Rick set off so many fireworks, my eyes and ears were full. When we finished the last sparkler, it was way past everyone’s bedtime and we all walked home.
I know we will have more Fourth of July celebrations together, in Salinas and up in Portland, but this was the last one for the Liza who has just turned four and the Grandma Judy who I am right now. And that makes me a little sad.

Love, Grandma Judy

Flying Back to Salinas

Dear Liza,

Today I woke up to a bright sunny day. I went upstairs and Jasper was playing his Marvel game, but I was hungry. Rather than make a mess and noise in the kitchen, I walked up to Palio for coffee and carrot bread.

Stephanie, the young lady who works at Palio, is very friendly and fun to talk to. She is trained as a preschool teacher but also works in the coffee shop. The music here is very interesting. Many popular American pop tunes sung in different languages, like Tom Jones’ “It’s not unusual” sung in Japanese. Easy to listen to, but sure not boring!

I brought biscotti back to Katie’s house, we read Zita the Space girl and Kestrel and Jasper explained all the details to me. They love these stories! When Uncle Dave got up he made everyone eggs and toast, and then we all sat at the table and wrote. Kestrel and Jasper started comics, I wrote a letter to Jasper, and Katie worked on a story she started the other day. Then Uncle drove me to the airport to fly home.

I have loved getting to spend time with family in my new city of Portland,  but I am not quite ready to be up here yet. There is still a whole house to move, a cat named Mouse to drive up, and a city full of friends to say good-bye to. I will see you on the Fourth of July!

Love, Grandma Judy

 

Meeting Lovely New People

Dear Liza,

Today started out cold and drizzly, very different from our hot sunshine of the past few days. I walked to Palio, a small coffee and pastry shop just a few blocks from Auntie Katie’s house. I was a little early and they weren’t open yet, so I sat on the bench outside and listened to the life around me. There are so many trees that the wind sounds like a crowded room. Crows, like in Salinas, chase each other around and complain if someone else has something they want. Grey squirrels run easily across streets, up trees and across power lines, looking like small grey rainbows as they go.

I spent some time making sure my measurements of the new house were correct, building fairy houses with Auntie Katie and Kestrel, and then rested up to have energy for a party!

Friends of Auntie Katie and Uncle Dave have a house that is 125 years old, so they had a party for it! The food was all old-fashioned and delicious….roast chicken, pickled carrots and radishes, and an applesauce nut cake with sparklers on it! Thanks, Heather Arndt- Anderson! At the party I met some chickens, a woman who used to do puppet shows but is now retired, and learned to play a game called Crokinole.

After that party, we went to ANOTHER one! There were more friendly people. I met Steve, a man who is a big fan of the Women’s Soccer team called the Thorns. There is so much to learn about this new, big city!

We got home very late and I slept like a walrus.

Love, Grandma Judy Continue reading “Meeting Lovely New People”

Getting Into the New House

Dear Liza,
Today was another hot, busy day! I woke up in an empty house, because Auntie
Katie and her family were still at the coast. I sat on her porch, surrounded and
shaded by rhododendrons and birch trees. I heard crows calling and some other
birds I cannot identify…I will need to ask someone who knows more than I do so I
can learn.

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Our new digs
Walking through this 1900s era neighborhood, I am reminded, by sidewalks stamped
1909, of how long all this has been here. Sidewalks alive with a hundred years of
lichen, ancient trees softening sunlight through thousands of leaves. There have
been a century of grandmas visiting,  a century of kids walking to school, a century
of people enjoying this neighborhood, these streets, these trees.
After this peaceful beginning, my day got very stressful. Borrowing Uncle Dave’s car,

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Keys!
I drove though heavy traffic to the town of West Linn, where I had to sign papers
and get keys for our new house here in Portland. Then I got a chicken cabbage salad
at a Vietnamese restaurant nearby and tackled the traffic all the way back. Uncle
Dave had errands to run, so I relaxed on the couch with Jasper and Kestrel, watching
cartoons and talking about video games, which I don’t know much about.
Then came the big job of the day. I walked up to our new house and measured all the
rooms so we will know what furniture will fit. Our new house is smaller than our
old one, so we had to choose..what do we keep? What do we give away?
I like that some things have gone to people we know. A old student will be sleeping on the sofa
Great grandpa Lowell and Grandpa Nelson built in 1975. Old friends will be using
some of the dishes. And of course, you, Liza, will be reading lots of my old books.
About half way through the measuring, the numbers stopped making sense…I
realized I was hungry, tired, and thirsty. Locking up the house, I walked down one
block, under shady tall trees, to Babydoll Pizza. It is in a really old building on Stark
Street. The floor is black and white checkered tile, and the walls are painted a dark
pink.
The people are so friendly! I asked for two pieces of pizza but the lady brought me
three because she said they looked too small to make a meal. I had an ice cold cherry
cola and very soon began to feel better. I spent a happy time watching a dad help his
toddler eat her first pizza (she loved it!) and then headed back to the house.
I made more measurements. I also removed the modern, metal mailbox that had
been stuck onto the outside of the house. I prefer the old fashioned mail delivery
system, a slot on the outside that connects to a tube on the inside of the hall closet.
When I was done, I locked up the house and walked the mile back to Auntie Katie’s
house. I walked a different route, past the old cemetery and a high school.
 That evening, I played legos with Jasper and Kestrel while Auntie Katie, Uncle Dave
and their friend Chelsea made dinner. We built houses and toilets for the super
heroes, as well as space ships, from their big box of legos.
By 9:30 I was fed and exhausted. I went to sleep in the coolest room in the house, the
basement guest room.  Another busy day tomorrow! 

Love,

Grandma Judy

My First Day in Portland

Dear Liza,

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Salmon Springs Fountain

Today I got up really early and Grandpa Nelson drove me all the way to San Jose.     I caught my flight and landed in Portland, in a warm, sunny day. I got the Red line Max train and got off around 1st street and Washington, where the buildings were tall and beautiful and I could smell good restaurants making lunch.

I walked to a restaurant called the Rock Bottom Brewery and had southwest eggrolls…not really egg rolls, but tasty and filling. I sat at a table on the sidewalk, enjoying the sunny day and all the people and traffic going by. I listened to bits of conversation, watched workmen load and unload trucks, and just enjoyed being in a vibrant, busy city.

I knew I wanted to see the big Willamette River, so I walked downhill to the Tom McCall Riverfront Park. It is a wide walkway with trees, benches, grass, and a big, changing fountain, at Naito Parkway and Salmon, for everyone, kids, grown ups and dogs, to play in. One fellow was trying to get his big dog into the fountain to cool off, but the dog was having none of it. When the man finally carried the dog in, the poor wet dog looked so embarrassed! But I bet he was more comfortable. I chatted with John, an older gentleman from Adena,Texas. We swapped stories about the places we’d been and what we learned about them.

I continued wandering north, heading for the best bookstore in the world!

POWELL’S!! A whole city block, at Burnside and 10th, four floors high, and all books. New, used, kids books, atlases, french, German, Arabic, comic books….you name it, it’s here. There are so many you can’t even see every room in one visit. It is like a national park of books.  The coffee shop, with pastries, makes sure you have sustenance to continue. Sitting in the foyer resting up from my travels, I watched my species interact. A group of teenagers were having an existential crisis. Parents were bribing their kids to leave the bookstore (!!) by promising them ice cream.

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Shannon the Poet

Then  I heard the unmistakable sound of an old fashioned typewriter. Click clack, music to my ears. It turns out that Shannon, a young poet, was sitting on the sidewalk just outside Powell’s, writing poems on any topic you requested for whatever you felt like paying. She said she was incredibly grateful to be able to do this for a living. What a joy. She wrote me a poem, but it is sort of personal. I may share it with you sometime.

Having rested my feet and rejuvenated my spirit with books, snacks, and good conversation, I headed to the Lan Su Chinese garden at 2nd and Everett. It is just a city block, but the walls seem to hold the noise and heat of the city out and the peace and cool of the garden in. The tiny lake has koi and water lilies, and is viewed from pagodas, bridges, benches, and even a tea house. The pavings were mosaics of pebbles and intricate stonework.

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At Lan Su

I realized, coming back out into the city, that I was done in. Walking down 2nd street, checking the bus stop signs, I found the stop for the number 4 bus that would take me to Auntie Katie’s house.

And here I am and here I’ll stay until morning.

Love, Grandma Judy