I wanted to take today to acknowledge the Moms in the family.
This is my Momma. She lived for her family and her garden and had lots of adventures with my Dad; camping, traveling, helping people, and making friends. After Daddy passed, she continued her adventures for another 15 years.
Here is your Auntie Katie. She has had adventures in Europe, New York, at Burning Man, and here in Portland. She got to be a Momma herself and then opened her incredible book shop, Books with Pictures. She has built her life, and her community, as a place where everyone is welcome. She amazes me every day.
Here is your Momma, Olga. She started her adventures in Moscow, Russia, where she studied hard and became a doctor. She moved to the United States, then to California, and met your Daddy David. After tango-ing together they fell in love, got married, and had YOU. She continues her adventures as a fabulous teacher while getting ready for whatever-happens-next.
And then there is me. The oldest female in the family, Teddy Bear Picniker , and ready for the next adventure.
This spring, our family lost several dear members. My Auntie Bea, her baby brother (my Uncle Rodney), and his wife Barbara all passed away. They had been sick for a while and it was not unexpected. Still, a big part of our family history went with them.
My Aunt Veralene, the baby of the family, is all that is left of that generation. Of my own generation, there are still many cousins with us. And the other day, I met a new one! I will explain.
Uncle Rodney and Aunt Barbara had one son, Mike. He was about 15 years younger than me, so we didn’t know each other well. He grew up, got married, and had children, and I was only dimly aware of it. He got divorced and married again and had another child. And then, tragically, when that child, Mykie, was 17, Mike passed away.
This spring, when Rodney and Barbara passed away, I got in contact with their daughter -in-law, my cousin Mike’s widow, Dawna. We chatted online back and forth as she was trying to clear up the stacks of paperwork that happen when folks die. Quite a while had passed since we talked.
Then, out of the blue, I woke up this week wondering how she was, and sent her a text.
It turned out that she was bringing her child, Mykie, who is now a young adult, up to Portland for a doctor’s visit this week. I asked if we could meet somewhere.
Happily, it worked out. The two of them drove across town and met me at Laurelhurst Park, and we got to visit, exchange philosophies and family stories, and get to know each other. They brought Mykie’s cat, Juney, who travels with them in a backpack that is like a mobile home. He was so excited to be outside!
One of the kids at the park was pretty excited, too. He came over to visit and we all had a laugh.
After a while we hugged and said good-bye, and I headed off to meet Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett for pizza. I am really happy to have this new cousin in my life!
We spent yesterday being thankful, and it was a full day. My life has been blessed, full, funny, a bit unusual, and very, very happy.
I am thankful for being alive and healthy. My body at 60-plus years is still running, although a little rusty. With proper maintenance it should have a lot more miles in it.
I am thankful for my dear people. Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett love me with all my faults. They are my people to look after and cook for, to play with, to dance and draw and do puzzles with.
I am thankful for my extended family. You and your Mom and Dad, Auntie Katie and the cousins, are not within hugging distance at the moment. But all things pass and before very long we will be hanging out at the Laurelhurst Park, or back on the beach in Monterey together. Meanwhile, we send letters and zoom and know we are loved.
I am thankful for learning. Being able to keep my brain young by learning French, art, and history makes everyday challenging and fun. I have always preached about “life-long learning” but never fully appreciated it until now.
I am grateful for our home here in Portland. This city has been such a fine place to retire, with art, theater, and all the urban buzz. The buzz is muted for a while, but will return with gusto, I have no doubt. And with Portland’s energy and social awareness, that will be a fine thing to see.
I am grateful for Democracy. The American Experiment wobbled for a while, but seems to be righting itself. I am glad to be able to have faith in our country’s future.
Yep, it’s been seven months (and a few days) since Dr. Fauci announced the quarantine. Spring and summer have come and gone, and our overnight temperatures are below freezing here in Portland. Winter is heading our way.
Many things have changed, for certain. Shakespeare in the Parks, big band concerts on the grass, and theatrical performances of any kind are a sweet, distant memory. Eating in restaurants, chatting with friendly waiters and total strangers, is now pretty much unthinkable. Cheering for the Pickles or the Thorns would be the height of social irresponsibility.
And travel to Paris? Out of the question. Totally. Big, heavy sigh.
Even going to visit family, sitting on a sofa and playing games with grandkids, just isn’t going to happen anytime soon.
But many things, important things, are still with us. Love, even at a distance, is still love. Watching you decorate a cookie house via ZOOM or walking a corn maze with the cousins is a reminder of who I am and what ties I have in this world. Waking up and having coffee with Auntie Bridgett. Doing crosswords and taking walks with Grandpa Nelson. Watching horror movies and baking shows.
I guess all this is to say that we are still holding on, seven months into the lockdown. We wear our masks and social distance and try to be patient with take-out.
Three years ago, we moved to Portland. We came for its urban culture and forested parks, the wide Willamette crossed by soaring bridges, and for Auntie Katie and the cousins.
We found all those things, and more. And even in the pandemic shut down, there is a lot of city to enjoy.
PAM, the art museum, is a feast for the eyes and spirit, just a walk away. Attendance is limited to keep folks safe, but the art there can carry you away for a while.
Art isn’t just in the museums, either. It is everywhere, bright and outspoken.
The parks are still wonderful places filled with hundred year old trees, ditzy squirrels, and flowers.
Our city has gotten a bad rap, lately. Mr. Trump says we have been “in flames for decades.” He is lying. Our nightly demonstrations in a few blocks of downtown make him nervous, is all. They show we will stand up to police brutality and racial injustice.
And they are as much a part of what I love about Portland as the museums and the forests. I am glad to be a part of it.
It seems there is a pendulum in my emotions that swings back and forth. Most days it is somewhere in the middle, and I go through the days happily reading, painting, and cooking.
But every few weeks or so, the pendulum swings all the way to total energized happiness, and I walk for miles and make cookies. A few weeks later, it swings back, and it is a struggle to get out of bed and make conversation.
I know we are all going through this together, but we are doing it mostly alone. And it’s hard, sometimes. My Momma was a big fan of gratitude in times like these. She grew up in Dust Bowl Oklahoma and didn’t have much in terms of clothes or toys. But she loved her tiny flower garden and her dog. So now it’s my turn.
I am grateful for:
My family, near and far. The near ones hold me together with love, patience and silliness, and the far ones remind me that we will all be together again someday.
Old friends. Some I know from kindergarten, high school, or just last year. But the network is there and lets me remember my connected-ness.
My health. This is a gift that I try not to abuse or take for granted.
Flowers, plants, wind, and clouds. Yesterday evening, watching the wind make the trees dance in the sunset was the highlight of my day.
Crossword puzzles, baking, and art. These small challenges keep my brain active and make me laugh. Also, cookies!
Well, I feel better. I hope you find a lot to be grateful for and that it brings you joy.
I hope you had good food and family for your Thanksgiving. Up here in Portland, we had both.
The day started with watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV. New York was having such high winds, they almost had to ground the big balloons! But the winds died down and the balloons flew. Auntie Katie and the Cousins arrived, and we had before-dinner cheese and crackers on Great Grandpa Lowell’s coffee table, using my Winnie the Pooh tray and Auntie Olga’s little snack plates. Kestrel declared them SO cute, and she was right!
There were games of Phase Ten and a home made 3- D tic tac toe game. Auntie Katie and I played ukulele and guitar and sang together, and then it was time for dinner. So much food! We ate turkey (carved beautifully by Auntie Katie) horsed around, and had some wine to toast the holiday and each other.
After dinner, Aunties Katie and Bridgett did the heavy work of breaking down the turkey for leftovers and soup, and putting all the leftover food in the fridge, while I put the Turkey skin and bones into the slow cooker with some onions and celery for stock! It will cook for hours and get delicious.
I wanted to go for a walk before it got dark, but the Cousins and Grandpa Nelson decided to stay home and play. We grown up ladies bundled up (it was 42 F!) and enjoyed Laurelhurst Park’s trees, dogs and a large contingent of ducks rustling through the fallen leaves looking for bugs.
Heading home, I showed Katie the “dinosaur infestation” at a house down on Morrison. The lady who lives there, Elaine, collects and places plastic dinosaurs in her heard and trees, and it is adorable! Auntie Katie thought so, too.
It was dark by the time we got back, and Auntie Katie got Grandpa Nelson to play some music. Then we had slices of three pies! My pumpkin, and and apple and pecan from Katie. Yummy!!
Cousin Kestrel made a miniature dinner table out of the Tic-tac-toe game, and she and I set it up for dinner with plates made of tin foil and napkins and food cut from Post-it notes. Auntie Bridgett invited two tiny stuffed crows over for dinner, and it was quite a party, right there on the floor!
We all shared some music, on videos or guitar, ukulele or singing songs that Jasper is learning at school, and eventually it was time to get kids and us to bed.
A bunch of leftovers went home to feed the family, because Auntie Katie will be busy tomorrow, having a big Black Friday sale at Books with Pictures!
Before Auntie Katie can move into her new bookshop, in the wonderful 1927 building she has been refurbishing, she has to move OUT of her current shop. That means more than a hundred boxes of books that need to get packed, as well as all the shelves, fixtures, tables and chairs. This is a big job.
This morning I went over to help. I was not alone! Auntie Katie was there, as well as her helpful and skilled friends. Mel and Skye dismantled shelving, Leanne sorted the “floppies”, Sierra and I packed books, and Opus and his son Leo taped boxes to be ready to fill.
During the course of the day, we ran out of book boxes, so Skye went to the local U-Haul shop and bought them out! One hundred book boxes. “If you need more, we have to go to Clackamas, about ten miles away,” she said.
As we filled and labeled boxes with Manga, graphic novels, comics series, zines and LumberJanes, we began to build THE WALL, figuring it was the best kind of wall…one we could unpack and read if we wanted, and not keeping anyone out of anywhere.
Katie provided lunch for the crew, with cheeses and meats to go on those rolls I baked, and chips, drink, and Oatmeal Everything cookies.
As the day wore on and I worked my way backwards in the alphabet from X- Men to Archie, I realized that my 63 year old back was getting tired. “Once I finish this wall,” I told myself, “I’m gonna catch the 70 and head home.” But then, just as I sealed up The Avengers, in walked Grandpa Nelson! Hooray!!
I thanked all those wonderful people for their help in making my daughter’s dream happen and headed home to wash down some aspirin with a bunch of water and watch the Giants beat The Dodgers.