All Sorts of Remembering

Dear Liza,

Yesterday, Auntie Bridgett and I started off to send you a package and do some shopping.

The UPS Store is about a mile and a half away, down on Hawthorne. When we started walking, it was cool and breezy. We walked down new streets in the neighborhood, looking at flowers and houses.

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Day lilies smell so good

At the corner of 32nd and Taylor, there was a church that looked like something from a fairy tale. It was built from rough stone and had parapets on the corners that looked like there should be soldiers with bows and arrows up there, defending the castle.

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Redeemer Church, but looks more like a castle

As we walked around, admiring the architecture, a man called from a workshop behind, “You want to see inside?” It was Harry, the caretaker of this marvelous church, and he took time off from working on projects to show us around.

The church was originally built in 1909, but most of it was destroyed in a fire in 1910. It was rebuilt in 1911, and the stained glass windows mostly date from then.

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Stained glass at Redeemer Church

Harry works not only at keeping the heating and electrical system working, for people to be comfortable and the lights and music for the services, but he also builds whatever furniture is needed out of reclaimed wood and furniture. It is all shiny and lovely.

Harry shared some of his life story and the work he does helping people who are having a hard life. We took some pictures, thanked him,  and said our good-byes.

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Auntie Bridgett and Harry

After mailing your package, we went to the Buffalo Exchange, a used clothing store. It was big and crowded, but we found lots of good clothes. They didn’t all fit, but I got a pair of jeans and two shirts. Auntie Bridgett found a few things, too.

After all that, we were worn out and it was really time to head home, which was still a mile and a half away. We tried to stay on the shady side of the street, but as we got to a nice shady corner, I noticed a mosaic across the street, and I had to go look.

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It was a small, beautiful bench built into the wall decorated with tiles, glass, and bicycle parts. There was a sign nearby explaining that this was a shrine, a way of remembering a young man named Matthew Schekel who had been hit by a truck while riding his bicycle across this intersection. All his friends had collected the tiles and things and built this way to remember him, which has lasted for many years. He died in 1998, 19 years ago. Doing more reading, I have since discovered that there is also a scholarship in his name from the local high school. He was a very special, loving young man.

When we finally got home and I was resting, I thought about all the people and lives that have been in this neighborhood before us. The hundreds of people who built the Redeemer church, and the thousands who have gone there since 1909; Harry, who takes care of it all; and young Matthew, who lived such a good life that I remember him, even though I never knew him. This place has a deep history I am just beginning to appreciate.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

Walking and Talking

Dear Liza,

Yesterday morning I did a lot of reading. I am enjoying “Sacre Bleu”, a fantasy story by Christopher Moore. After lunch, I walked to Auntie Katie’s store and back. I wanted to return some things Jasper and Kestrel had forgotten from our trip to the zoo, and give everyone hugs. I also got to see their new acrobatic tricks and watch a local cartoonist teach some older kids how to draw.

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Inside Auntie Katie’s Store

Googlemaps says it is 1.7 miles to Books with Pictures from our house, so I walked 3.4 miles there and back. The weather was warm, but I walked in the shade when I could.

I enjoyed walking down streets I hadn’t been on before and seeing how people have decorated their big front porches and small yards. Many older houses, from the 1900s and 1920s, are along Salmon and Taylor between about 20th and 29th. People have porch swings or comfy chairs set out, to visit and chat with people walking by. Some have little twinkly lights hung from the rafters, so it always looks like Christmas, or a party. There are even bicycles, mosaics, sculptures, fountains, and pink flamingoes!

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Porches in Portland are very interesting!

After I got home and put my feet up for a while, Grandpa Nelson, Auntie Bridgett and I walked to Crema, our local coffee place, at the corner of Ankeny and 28th. We were meeting our new friends, Craig and his wife Sherry, who we first met on a walk around the neighborhood, when we saw Sherry trying to get a good photograph of the Joan of Arc statue in Coe Circle. We asked what they knew about the statue, and the conversation was so much fun we wanted it to continue, so we decided to meet for coffee.

That conversation lasted another 2 and a half hours! Like good friends do, we talked about everything…our lives, kids, troubles, people we had met, things we thought about. Not wanting so say goodbye but needing to head home and take care of business, we made plans to have dinner with them in a few weeks.

We got home and worked for a few hours, then had dinner. When it got cool enough, we took another walk, south toward Sewallcrest Park. It is about a mile from our house. There is a community garden, where people rent small plots of land to grow vegetables on. It was fun to see people and their dogs working and enjoying the evening.

Further along the park, we heard shouts and yelling. It was a kickball game! Two teams of adults, with their kids and dogs “helping”, were kicking and running and having a fine time. The game ended with a score of  7 to 1, but no one was sad…just smiling and happy and playing.

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Adult Kickball at Sewallcrest Park

We walked home, and I was finally tired. I had walked more than 5 miles during the day and was ready to be lazy. We snuggled on the couch and then went to bed.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Accidental Delights

Dear Liza,

Last night, after the weather got cooler and we were all done with work, Grandpa Nelson, Auntie Bridgett and I went for a walk. We were headed for Colonel Summers Park, but we got distracted.

We saw signs that said “Shakespeare in the Park” with an arrow pointing…not to the park, but to the Lone Fir Cemetery, which I have told you about before. I like watching plays by William Shakespeare, and so we followed the signs. In the middle of the cemetery, we found a small audience sitting in lawn chairs around one of the war memorials, and people performing a play called Troilus and Cressida. There were hardly any sets, just enough to give the idea of “where we were” for the play, which was an army camp.

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Actors in Troilus and Cressida at the Lone Fir Cemetery

There was no lighting, no microphones, and the costumes were very simple. But it was wonderful to see not only the actors, but the audience there, on a warm summer evening under the tall trees in the cemetery, enjoying theater. We watched the show for a while, then quietly left. I made a note to myself to read the play as soon as I get my Shakespeare books unpacked.

Continuing our walk, we followed Belmont Street west and realized we were only a few blocks from Revolution Hall, the former Washington High School that is now being used as offices for different businesses, concerts, and restaurants.

It is a beautifully designed brick building from 1924 and there is a small restaurant on the roof that has a wonderful view of the city. Since it was almost sunset, we decided to go up and enjoy some wine and watch the sun go down. It was pretty crowded up there on the big flat roof, but we found a table to sit at and watch as the glaring sun dipped behind the western hills and turned the whole sky a soft pink.

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Washington High School, now Revolution Hall

 

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The view west from the roof

Grandpa Nelson said we should get home before dark, so we started walking back along Stark Street towards our house. We saw the Penny Market open, a tiny building on an almost dark street. We went inside, got some ice cream and met Tom, the man in charge. He was very friendly and happy to be living in Portland, too. We got home, tired after our more than 2 mile walk, and got into pajamas.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

Klickitat Street

Dear Liza,

The other day I told you about our busy day at Pip’s Doughnuts, IKEA and Costco. There was another exciting part of that day. We drove down Klickitat Street!

I know you haven’t read them yet, but there is a wonderful series of books by Beverly Cleary that all happen on Klickitat Street. Henry Huggins, his dog Ribsy and neighbors Beezus and Ramona Quimby have lots of adventures. For many years I didn’t know that it was a real street in a real place, but it sure is!

Beverly Cleary herself grew up in this northeast section of Portland, on 37th Street just down a bit. She was labeled a low reader in first grade, and as she said, “To be in the Blackbird group was to be disgraced.” Her own school librarian encouraged her and she had caught up by third grade, and was told by her sixth grade teacher that she should be an author. Mrs. Cleary grew up to be a children’s librarian who was frustrated because there weren’t enough books that really interested children. She began writing and published her first book, “Henry Huggins”, in 1950. That is six years before I was even born!

Beverly Cleary used her own childhood as a model for her stories, which deal with the everyday joys and dilemmas of childhood. They are funny for children and adults and feel very real in their approach to family life. She liked the name Klickitat because it reminded her of the sound of knitting needles.

Today, Klickitat Street is still in the middle of a pretty part of the city, a neighborhood called Roseway, far enough out from Downtown to be quiet but still very busy. The street is one of the most heavily used of the “Bicycle Throughways” in Portland, roads that are signed for bikes and where car traffic is discouraged. These throughways make biking much safer and more fun.

Today I have been writing letters to friends, reading one of my favorite books, Robert Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land”, and listening to the crows. This afternoon Grandpa Nelson and I will ride our bikes to see cousins Jasper and Kestrel be in a circus from their summer camp. I am sure enjoying life up here in Portland!

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

Pip’s Doughnuts and Other Happy Discoveries

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Dear Liza,

Today we needed to go to IKEA for some house things and Costco for some food things. Grandpa Nelson knew that it would be a long day of walking and shopping, so he decided that we should start off with local happy.

Pip’s Original Doughnuts and Chai, on NE Fremont, was the perfect place. It is different from every other doughnut shop in several ways. First, there is no glass case with doughnuts to choose from, because every single doughnut is made when you order it and served hot. YUM!

Another difference is the size of the doughnuts. They are tiny! Each warm, perfect bundle of fried goodness would fit in the palm of your 4 year old hand. About three small bites, or one greedy mouthful.

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Finally, there are not dozens of kinds of doughnuts. The day we were there, there were six. Grandpa Nelson had cinnamon and sugar. Very sweet and good. Auntie Bridgett had Nutella, which she pronounced “The best doughnut I’ve ever had in my life.” I had a wickedly sweet and savory mouthful called Candied Maple Bacon, the essence of which I would like to eat every day of my life.

Doing some doughnut math, we reckoned that a regular cake doughnut would equal the size of about three Pip’s. So you can mix and match and share with friends and get to taste more deliciousness without feeling like a doughnut hog. Well, feeling a bit less like a doughnut hog than usual, anyway.

After thoroughly enjoying the doughnuts, dog- and people-watching and warm hospitality of Pip’s, we got on with the business of the day. When we moved from Salinas, we tried to get rid of things we didn’t love. We had owned several really ugly lamps, and we left them behind. Wandering IKEA’s maze of showrooms, we came upon the perfect lamp. It would fit in well and gives a nice warm light. We also found an office chair for Grandpa Nelson that will help his back, and lots of small things to make the house work better.

After a small lunch at IKEA’s cafeteria, we headed for Costco. We found two giant shelf units to help organize the garage. Moving here, we collapsed three art areas and two offices into one space, so there are a lot of things that need storing…books, art, tools… and we want them to stay dry through Portland’s notoriously wet winters. Getting them up off the floor and into plastic bins seems a good idea. We also found cashews, walnuts, peanuts…you know, Grandpa Nelson food.

Back home, we assembled the lamp (which does, indeed, look perfect by the piano)  and moved one of the last boxes into a back closet so the lamp had a happy place to be in. Grandpa Nelson built his chair, we installed things in the kitchen, and crashed. Hours of shopping just wear me out!

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Later in the day, I got an invitation from Auntie Katie to hear a storyteller at her book store, Books with Pictures. Gretchen Peterson told a really interesting story about her new super hero, Iris Eldinger. We talked about storytelling and teaching and how much the two are alike.

Auntie Bridgett and I walked home just as the sun was going down. We stopped several times to look west, over the bridges on the Willamette to the city shadowed in pink clouds. It was the perfect ending to a lovely, productive, delicious day.

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Love,

Grandma Judy