#7. When you’re finished changing, you’re finished. –Benjamin Franklin
I must have written this blog a million times. The first go ‘round was about the progress of our rebuild. Our plans were hanging on the wall of our rental, where we could see them every day!
I think it was a Thursday not long after, though, when I poured out my anger at the fu@king State Forestry Department. They would not let us keep our existing driveway, adding thousands of dollars to our rebuild. We are sorry, they said, even though a fire truck will never drive up your driveway because your house is close to the street, codes have changed. I wrote all about that, potty mouth overflowing, and then decided it was not a nice thing for anyone to read.
Then there was the day that I started to tell you about CAG graduating a year early and moving to Berkeley with JAG. Phew. That blog was filled with the mind boggling realization that life as we knew it was changing drastically (again). I sat, staring at a Valley-Fire-melted-bouncy-ball, thinking of a simpler time when that ball had actually bounced. In one year we had lost our home of 16 years and so many memories along with it - photos, baby blankets, little shoes, angels made from handprints, notes written in crayon that said I love you mom. And now they were physically leaving us, too.
Another time I wrote about all of the houses that were popping up on the mountain. It was exciting! We bought the lot next to ours, figured out a new driveway plan ($$$), paid for a second set of house plans, and stayed the course.
But then it was May 6th. I turned 45 the same day that the house on Salmina Road hit the market. It randomly flashed across my Facebook feed. I ignored it; no need to look when we had our dream plans hanging on the wall, right?! Then, unexplainably, I was searching my feed for the listing, and that night we walked onto a new piece of property and through a new front door, trying to make sense of the peace that settled on our shoulders. Later, when we drove to Evergreen and stood at the top of our property, we tried to make sense of the unbearable sadness we felt for what we would leave behind.
And you would think that I would have written pages when the cause of the Valley Fire was released... when there was a wildfire just a few miles from our new home on the day that we moved in... when the Clayton Fire hit... when an arsonist was arrested. But there are still no words for those things - just a jumble of emotions.
So I wrote a blog about the art of letting go of treasured belongings… of places we call home… of boys who grow too fast. I wrote about being a fire survivor and trying to let go of the guilt that comes with that title; guilt over missing material objects (who wants to admit that?); guilt that there is something strangely satisfying about being able to start life with a clean slate (no more boxes of extraneous items in the garage, no more closets stuffed with too many clothes, no more clutter); and guilt about accepting help from others when there must be a million people in the world who need it more. Now there was also the guilt of being greeted with something quite special – a beautiful new home. I wrote in circles, and finally decided that I did not know much about this whole idea of “letting go”, so I would save it for another blog in 5 or 10 years, when I would be older and wiser.
Instead, I am going to tell you about our trip to Portland.
We went on a whim. Mr. TBG wanted to go fishing, so he hopped in his car, kayak perched atop… and I hopped on a plane, ready to meet him in Portland. We hadn’t done anything so spontaneous in years! JAG & CAG were on a road trip with their band, Forget It., and they had a gig in Portland on Sunday night. Perfect.
First stop: The Rebuilding Center
OMG. Lines of toilets… lavender bathtubs… boob lights… beautiful old windows that could tell stories… and church pews for days. The mission of the Rebuilding Center is to be a non-profit resource to strengthen environmental, economic and social fabric of local communities.
I love their mission - boob lights and all! :) We found a $5 medicine cabinet that we needed for the bathroom of our new house. It was perfect – the chipped edge made it feel like we had owned it forever. Its environment would change, but it would essentially remain the same - a juxtaposition of old against new.
Next stop: City Home
This stop came recommended by my friend Karol, so I knew we would love it.
When you have an empty home to fill, it’s hard not to want to buy everything in a store like this. I know I have YEARS of nesting ahead of me, but at the same time I need my boys to walk through the door when they come home and feel like they aren’t visiting a stranger’s house. I need to come home and feel like I am not living in stranger’s house - does that make sense? Home is a sacred space. We wandered separately, lost in our own thoughts of “home”, and then I got a text from Mr. TBG telling me he had found the ONE thing we HAD to buy! I got excited, and turned to see this:
Good lord. :) We had fun in that store, looking at everything, sneaking photos of things we wanted to make ourselves (DIY coffee table coming soon!), and giggling over that big ol’ throne. We walked out with another mirror and some little things from the clearance pile, which felt like old friends. When we left, I was starting to feel just like this sign:
Around the corner on SE Grand Street: Rejuvenation
Let’s just say that we walked into this store and decided not to touch anything. It was AMAZING, and so were the price tags (If we had claimed a few of these pieces on our insurance list, we would have reached our limits in a few days instead of several months, lol!).
Across the street: Grand Marketplace
Love. L.O.V.E. One of the highlights of Portland’s Central Eastside Industrial District for sure. I saw some things I used to own – kind of made me sad. I saw other things that made me smile. We walked out with handmade soap, French flower pots, and a HUGE metal dustpan - just like we used to have. Funny how a picking up a familiar dustpan can make you feel right at home!
That night: Dinner at Jake’s Place
Let’s just say that we haven’t been out to a nice dinner in so long that we overdid it. Drinks and appetizers and huge entrees... fantastic people-watching and full bellies… it was wonderful.
Sunday morning brunch, back to Central Eastside: Olympia Provisions
We walked in to this huge MEAT sign. I grew up on ten acres of land with spring water, wind generators, oil lamps, donkeys, no electricity, and no TV. What’s more, I was raised vegetarian. My parents were the Mother Earth News magazine story of that couple who moved their family from the big city to “get back to nature” (minus the primal instinct to eat meat). But despite the MEAT sign, everything about the place - from the host to the waiter to the burlap walls - was so friendly and quaint that I knew it would be delicious. And it was.
Next stop: Portland Saturday Market?
Yes, it was Sunday – but we heard that the Saturday market was open on Sunday, too. So we plugged the address into our GPS. We crossed the river and followed directions, giggling. Our gal kept telling us to turn on “Cooch Street” (you all know that COOCH is a dirty word, right?!). We finally found COUCH Street. It felt good to laugh together, and when we got to the market we couldn’t find any parking, so we kept driving and landed at Old Portland Hardware. One of the locals had recommended it, and it sounded fabulous. It was fabulous: rows and shelves and tables and birdcages full of glorious things… doorknobs and hooks and hinges, cleaned and sorted with love… old dentist chairs and massive spotlights that evoked images of another time…. all waiting to grace a new home.
Very cool place! I want to work here! I mean, look at this break room!
We found some rusty old chain and bought a length of old grain scoops. Mr. TBG oooed and awwwed over the beautiful reclaimed wood, and I marveled that even the most unsuspecting things can be salvaged:
A bit creepy, right?! But on the other hand, I think a lot of the things we saved from our fire rubble look creepy, too. Keeping them alive in some form, despite their changes, somehow makes me happy. I bet these dolls are glad they aren’t cast-offs in the bottom of a garbage can… like the items in our memory jar are glad they aren’t at the bottom of a toxic dump. Sometimes we have to change even if we don’t want to.
Then it was time to drink: Chehalem
We had fond memories of a trip to Chehalem when the boys were babies, with our friends Corey & Heather. Unfortunately, we found that we couldn’t visit the vineyard as we had back then, but we were delighted that the tasting room was still amply supplied with the same Chardonnay we had loved - a little taste of the past that mixed wonderfully with the present.
Last stop: Twilight Bar and Grill
We were nervous. We almost ditched the idea of going. After all, we were used to being in charge of our boys on their long band trips – we were NOT used to them being in charge of themselves. Would they want us there? We gathered up the courage to walk through the door, bought two Olympias, and waited for the show. We were clearly the oldest people in the house. Our boys played their set, and we listened to the art of a new generation - feeling the changing times, feeling a little old. Then, quite to our surprise, we, the OLD people, were in the spotlight. Our boys announced to the crowd that it was our 25th wedding anniversary, and that they were happy to have us there! Everyone clapped and smiled. I didn’t cry then, because I didn’t want to look like a big baby. But I cried later. In that moment, I knew we were going to be okay.
Here’s one last pic from our trip:
We aren’t very good at selfies, and after I looked at this more closely, I realized that I need to perfect the angle of the whole selfie thing! I stared at the top of my head, noticing with dismay the gray roots. But then I remembered.
I remembered new rules are made, and sometimes that sucks… but we can make it through. I remembered that it is a joy to watch your children change and grow into adults, even if it pains you … that settling into a new home isn’t necessarily a bad thing… that people can do things both accidentally and on purpose that change the world, and we can cry about it and cuss about it, and that is okay as long as we keep moving forward. I remembered that a devastated community CAN change for the better… that there will always be tidbits from the past that we can salvage and turn into beautiful things. And that as long as we are changing, we are so very much alive…right down to every little hair on the top of our heads. That, my friends, is a good place to be. <3
When you’re finished changing, you’re finished. –Benjamin Franklin
PS – I have to admit that I still got my hair colored the next week. Sigh. #workinprogress :)