The Adult Table

There comes a point in life when the only miles stones are the birthdays that end in zero. Having past the big ones of learning to drive, turning 21 or graduating from high school, my miles stones turned to others. My children’s first words or first steps. First days of school and finally graduating from high school. Emilie is the last one to do that and it’s coming up fast.

As a child, and the youngest of 4 kids, sitting at the adult table for family holidays was a big one for me. I had to wait until one of my older sibling left the house to get that privilege, and prove I knew how to put my napkin on my lap and keep my elbows off the table. And then when my eldest brother brought his family back home, while I was still in high school, I ended up back there with my nephews. By that point I didn’t mind. I had learned that they were infinitely more interesting than the adults.

So coming to visit my childhood home held no new milestones, just old memories. A boy I grew up with, and went to kindergarten with, is living back in his Dad’s old house down the street. He’s gutting it and and it’s gorgeous. Yesterday, as I was taking a chainsaw to my Mom’s back garden, he popped down with his granddaughter and chatted for awhile.

And then it happened. My Mom and our next door neighbor, Mrs. Taylor, invited me to sit with them on the front porch in the evening and watch the neighborhood go by. I say ‘Mrs. Taylor’ because she will always be that to me. My siblings started calling her by her first name decades ago, but it seems wrong to me somehow.

My Mom made a phone call and then she came out in the living room and asked me if I would like to sit with them. She explained the rules as we went out to commence our sitting.

‘Regina gets the good chair. I always make sure.’ Letting me know that while I’m an invited special guest to this party of two, I’m not quite a member of this club yet.

Mrs. Taylor came over and we hugged. It was so good to see her and sitting there the years peeled away. I heard about grandchildren and great grandchildren. And then my Mom started telling stories about relatives I never heard of who were hobbyist wooden castanet makers in the 1950’s. Such random stuff she had us laughing until my belly hurt.

Sitting here at the Portland airport waiting to join Jeff in Seattle for our final week in the US this Fall, I’m smiling. I’ve always been a person who embraced change, even sought it out. There’s a never-ending list of new things to see, do and learn in the world. Always new mountains to climb. But these past couple of weeks has been nice. Heading out into the unknown is exciting, but sometimes, just sometimes, taking a moment to touch where you come from is important too. And I think I’m happy I’m still not quite a permanent member at the adult table.


How Far I’ve Fallen

I have been visiting at my Parent’s house in Portland for a week now. I’ve eaten more in the last week than I usually do in a month. My Mom’s favorite phrase ‘Are you hungry? Wound you like xyz?’ rolls off her tongue like the those mythical Greek Sirens who tempted ancient sailors to wreck their boats on the rocks in the Cyclades. Except it’s my thighs that are being wrecked and, like Agamemnon, I can’t seem to resist.

I am very sure I’ll be unrecognizable to Jeff when we meet up at SeaTac airport late Friday night. It won’t be my body he won’t recognize. Even my Mother can’t fatten me up that quickly – no matter how hard she tries. No – it will be my brain that has dropped several IQ points in such a short span and it’s not hard to see how that happened.

Game Shows. I have been sitting in their living room watching their TV schedule. And it is THEIR schedule. ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ is on at 9. It’s ‘Redemption Week’ on ‘Deal’ – as insiders call it – so they’ve invited all the ex-Zonkers (what are those again?) back to redeem themselves and try to win the cash and prizes that alluded them the last time they were on.

‘The Price is Right’ comes on at 10 with the never ending ‘Come on Down!’. Afterwards we get showered and dressed so we can eat some more and go to the grocery store for more food. We come home and eat lunch. Then I take a nap from my carbohydrate induced food coma. When I wake up, I have a ‘snack’ before dinner.

Dinner will be served before ‘Jeopardy’ and ‘Wheel of Fortune’ come on. They’re ‘Wheel Watchers’ so there will be codes to input and secret puzzles that allow us at home to feel like we’re in the game filmed in Studio City, California.

Every day, before you know it, you’ve spent the entire day eating and watching people select one of three doors or various sized boxes. Or guessing the price of Tylenol or a car, and incessantly jumping up and down. Then we eat some more and watch more guessing and jumping. Then it’s time to go to bed.

My Mother ran her own successful business for nearly 4 decades. So she’s no dummy. But that doesn’t make her immune from shenanigans. Wheel of Fortune is on a half hour earlier where my uncle (her brother) lives in another state. Every night he writes down the answers and calls my Mom and gives them to her before Wheel comes on here. I just found this out after several days of her shouting them out after only one letter has been revealed. I think my Dad believes menopause and osteoporosis makes you smarter – and louder. I think it just make you more wily. If they call me in Spain and tell me my Mom is running a gang of bank robbers, or a Speakeasy, I would believe it now.

‘Let’s Make a Deal’ is my least favorite game show. It requires no skill at all. There is nothing to figure out. No rules. Just smiling people taking more time to pick the envelope or curtain #2 than they took to choose their spouse, who is in the audience dressed as a Super Hero in adult Underoos. After a few days I asked my Mom how they can watch such a ridiculous show with people dressing up and making fools of themselves for nothing – usually.

‘I love it!’ Her eyes twinkling. ‘Until they decide to get really silly. Then it’s just stupid’ she says with a serious tone only a true game show aficionado could pull off.

Really? UNTIL they get ‘really silly’? I just watched a grown man dressed as a lumberjack, with a toy ax, battle a woman dressed as an angel for a free trip to Las Vegas! The show shoots in Los Angeles. They could just drive to Vegas by lunchtime if they left now.

But I have the lingo down. ‘Showcase Showdown’ and ‘Daily Double’ are part of my lexicon now. But there’s only so much room in my brain. I can’t seem to remember my Spanish mobile number by heart anymore and had to look it up. So I’ll have to leave here before my brain turns completely to mush. I think it will be just in time too. Cause I’m starting to schedule my feedings and remaining errands around The Big Deal of the Day. Ugh. I gotta get this monkey off my back.

You know I’m 52

I am 52 years old. After several days at my parent’s house I feel the need to state it out loud. In fact, I’ve already told other people this since I’ve been here. I know it sounds strange but it’s necessary.

In Valencia, or when I’ve lived in any other city, I never felt the need to announce my age to virtual strangers. It’s not because I look older or younger than I am. It’s because other people just assumed I was an adult that could chew gum and tie my own shoes. Or find my own way home. But when I come back to Portland, to the city and the house where I grew up, it’s essential. As a reminder, even to me.

We were checking out at the bike shop the other day and my phone rang. It was my Mother wondering where I was – we had been gone from the house for 2 hours. We spoke and I hung up and turned back to the person who was helping us. She had heard my end of the conversation.

‘I’m 52.’ I told her with a smile.

She laughed. ‘Yeah, I’m 54. My Mom still calls me and wonders where I am. She lives in San Francisco.’

We finished our business and went back to pick up my parents for lunch. They were graciously taking us out for good barbecue – something we can’t get in Spain. I drove because my Mom has cataracts. She drives when I’m not here but that seems to be irrelevant, because from the back seat she told me what to do the entire time.

Now, I’m not talking directions here. It was as if I was 15, just learning to drive and she was ensuring I didn’t hit anything and actually stopped at red lights.

‘Now, you’ll want to slow down here and look to your left because traffic can come from there. Then you’ll want to look over your right shoulder because they’ll be merging traffic. Make sure you’re getting over but not too far over and increase your speed.’

Jeff was sitting next to her in the back. I could see his face in the rear view mirror and he was laughing so hard, knowing what I was thinking, he couldn’t look at me in mirror as his face turned bright red. My jaw was hanging open. Incredulous.

‘I’ve been driving for awhile now – you know. I got this.’ I told her.

‘Oh I know, but this area can be tricky.’ she told me seriously.

We got the restaurant and sat down. I tried not to say anything and Jeff kept his eyes glued to the menu. I looked over and my Mom was reading her menu when I noticed that her glasses were missing one of the lenses. I pointed it out to her.

‘Well, no wonder. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t see.’ she told me.

I sighed. Now I couldn’t be upset. Now I was more worried than frustrated. How she’s driving with her vision the way it is baffles me. It’s so bad she didn’t know she was missing a lens. I think she was telling me what to do and how to get there from memory.

But being here and being babied (cause I am the youngest in my family) has it’s upside. Before I arrived she had called me for special requests and stocked all my favorite comfort foods from childhood. Green jello and pears – always the go to when I was sick as a kid. She made spare ribs and her famous coleslaw. I say famous because it’s in the Nordstrom Family Cookbook sold in their cafe’s around the country under ‘Field Family Coleslaw.’ When I presented her with a copy of it for Christmas one year she was pretty happy. I made sure she got the attribution. This morning I snuck down and ate it at 4am. It’s just that good.

And she’s cooking up bacon and maple sausage every morning and I’m eating like a gluttonous king. An extra 5lbs will be heading back to Valencia with me I am very sure. So perhaps being 52 this week isn’t so important. Maybe it’s more about taking all the concern and care on board and cherishing it. Because I know it won’t be here forever. Someday I’ll wish my Mom was there to tell me how to drive her car and worry that I’m not home. And when that day comes I’ll whip up a batch of her coleslaw and say a little prayer. Grateful that even at my age, she still worried about me.



A Special Treat

We are continuing to checking things off our lists. This trip was really all business and we’ve been making a plan for months now. All those little things that we would buy in the US, and Oregon more specifically (no tax), that we can’t easily get back home in Valencia.

Jeff had ordered some recumbent bike parts but when we went to the store to pay for them and pick them up, the store was closed and they didn’t answer their phones. Booo! So we needed a plan B and fast. Luckily, we’re in the recumbent bike/trike capital of the world. We found a place in the Ladd’s Addition neighborhood of Portland and headed down there to see what they had. Bonanza!

Recumbent pdx – is amazing and they have trikes that made even me think of converting to reclining cycling. The store was packed, literally, to the ceiling with trikes of every stripe. Jeff was hopeful. And the shop dogs were friendly too. But the real gem of the store is Janet, one of the owners. She was incredibly helpful right out of the gate, found what we needed, and then took us down to the basement and showed us all their stock and work shop.

Janet and her husband are transplants from Evanston (near Chicago) 7 years ago. They’re semi-retired and this is their hobby and passion. Take your pick. But what is even weirder is that Janet is from San Francisco originally and after comparing notes on where we’d lived there, found out we have mutual friends from my days at Nordstrom Corporate in Seattle. It really is a small world.

Her enthusiasm is infectious. Once she found out we were visiting from Spain and had a very limited time to gather all the parts and pieces Jeff required, she was all over us to take a ride.

‘These trikes are just sitting here. Lets go for a ride.’

We hadn’t even considered that when walking into the shop. But Jeff had spotted some trikes he had always wanted to try out. ‘Why not?’. But I had never ridden a trike so Janet gave me a little tutorial, picked out some helmets and we were off. We rode down through the neighborhoods of my childhood. I hadn’t been in Ladd’s Addition in 30 years and it was still as lovely as ever. The trees and the rose garden traffic circles were still in bloom. Only in Portland would you see the homeless people who camp in the rose gardens doing yoga.

We rode down to the new Tillicum Bridge that opened 3 years ago for cyclists, foot traffic, and some mass transit. No cars allowed. And the bike trails to get there and back are equipped with their own bike lanes completed with green signal triggers for cyclists. I’d never seen that before. We had a blast! And I learned why Jeff loves his recumbent trike so much. Its zippy and maneuverable and a great workout! And it’s soooo fun.

The views didn’t disappoint and it was great to see how the neighborhood there has changed, but also stayed the same. Janet was a wonderful tour guide but our time was limited. We went back to the shop up a long hill that was surprisingly easy to climb. She got us checked out. We spent ALOT of money but left smiling. The best kind of shopping.

I was almost sad to say goodbye. Meeting people unexpectedly that instantly become friends is like that. And so are the best experiences. The gems that fall, out of the blue, into your lap. It’s what makes waking up and greeting the day so fun. Always so many possibilities.