Your great grandma Billie, my Momma, would have been 100 years old yesterday. She passed away just the month before you were born, so you two never got to know each other. She would have liked you!
She loved two things above all: Her family and her garden. I think she saw all of us as her garden, actually, nourishing and us encouraging us to become our best. Here is a picture of her in her garden.
Wednesday, to celebrate what would have been her 100th birthday, I got on a bus for the first time in a year and a half, and went to The Grotto. The proper name for it is The National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother.
The Grotto is a beautiful church, sanctuary, and garden in Northeast Portland. It is most famous for its Christmas concert, but the holiday crowds are huge, so I don’t go then. I like it better when it is just me and the birds.
I bought a token for the elevator that takes you from the lower garden, where the Grotto, church, and gift shop is, and rode the hundred feet up to the upper garden, where it is nothing but lovely.
The path that leads around the top passes a meditation chapel, and small shrines to Our Lady, who is Mary, the mother of Jesus. There are statues of Saint Francis of Assisi and St. Jude of Thaddeus. But mostly, there are gardens.
Pines and maples soar up to the sky, azaleas and rhododendrons bloom pink and purple, waterfalls bubble, and birds sing. It the best place I know for walking and thinking peaceful, happy thoughts.
I spent hours in the upper garden. I walked the labyrinth, did a watercolor, and wrote about a momma. I wrote about how her love wasn’t the sort that smothered us or hid us from the world, but let us know that we could go out into the world and be safe. It was a love that got better and stronger as we got older and had some of our prickly edges knocked off.
When I took the elevator back down to earth, and was leaving the Grotto, I found a fellow’s wallet in the middle of the street. Once I got home, I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to get it back to him. With no home address or phone number, it will be a challenge, and I’m still working on it. But it’s what Momma would do.