I have had several posts I wanted to write over the past several days, but no time in which to do so.
On Friday, Elliot turned 13. This was momentous, as he has felt 13 for about 2 years now, so it was nice to make it official at last.
I was tempted to write a sentimental account of the day he entered our lives, of how I woke up that morning about 6:15, uncertain of what was going on, but by 6:45 was able to tell Donn, “I wouldn’t bother going in to work today.” Of how that turned my normally mild-mannered husband into a sort of Ricky Ricardo, who rushed about dropping suitcases (it was empty. Of course I didn’t pack in advance) and calling everyone we knew. I stood next to my bookcase, trying to decide what book to bring (my plan was to read through labour but it didn’t work out quite like that), while he whirled about me, Captain Stress, the Superhero of Impending Paternity. But really, I assumed I had hours. I’d taken the classes, watched the videos. The smiling lady in the video, rocking gently with a wistful smile on her face while her husband brought her juice, waited all day before it was time to go to the hospital. No one was more surprised than I when Elliot arrived 5 hours later, apparently very angry. Donn and I gazed down in some bemusement at our son, to all appearances just an enormous mouth topped by a tiny, wrinkled forehead. “Maybe we should call him Mick (after Mick Jagger),” I suggested. Donn’s comment was, “He looks a lot like your brother.” By then, Captain Stress had departed (off to where he‘s needed next!), and our inherent snideness was reasserting itself.
On his 13th birthday, things were a little less eventful. For one, we slept a lot later. (A plus side of adolescence that they don’t tell you about–they sleep late in the morning! At last, my genes are asserting themselves!) Our friend Michelle, whom we worked with in Mauritania, was due to arrive early afternoon at the airport, and we were nearly on time to pick her up.
So far, I am liking the teenage years. Of course, we’ve only had 4 days of them so far, but I feel it’s an auspicious beginning. For one, the party. No more frantic days of planning, goodie bags to buy for, games to supervise, tears to dry, cliques to navigate, etc etc. He invited 3 friends over, we fed them pizza and Doritos, they watched movies and played GameCube and grunted and looked things up on YouTube. Michelle, Donn and I sat out on the balcony in the mellow evening light and chatted and sipped cool drinks.
They spent the night, these 3 extra boys, and in the morning I got up to make them pancakes. “We’re not hungry,” they told me. “We just ate pizza and Doritos.” For breakfast? Oh for the cast-iron stomach of youth again!
We spent the weekend proudly showing off our state (Oregon) to Michelle, since it was her first visit. We took her to Saturday Market, where we found henna booth after henna booth, all stocked by Americans painting “authentic Moroccan designs” in places I’m fairly sure weren’t authentic. (I.e. lower back, pregnant belly, etc) Michelle and I were amused. In Mauritania at least, henna is just for women, and men aren’t supposed to even see it being done; it is part of the mystery and wonder that is femininity. (Although I did see it offered to tourists in the marketplaces in Morocco, which I suppose is where they got the idea). But Michelle and I were comforted; if we’re ever starving, at least we’ve got a money-making idea. We could open a henna booth.
We took Michelle to Powells (City of Books), where I gave her a map and a walking tour. (For those of you poor people who have never been here, Powells is a bookstore that is an entire city block and 3 storeys tall. They sell new and used books, and they have pretty much everything. It’s a marvellous place, and when we were in Mauritania, I used to have dreams that I was back in Portland and shopping at Powells) It was a very fun way to pass an evening. I had to let the kids be on their own in the kids section because otherwise, they were making me miserable, nagging at me to go to the kids’ section. I proudly showed Michelle entire sections on, for example, Artic Exploration; not something that most bookstores can afford to devote much shelf space to.
We took her berry picking (her first time ever! She’s from Kansas), and to the Rose Garden, which is full of roses of all colours and sizes, all in bloom now, an olfactory delight on a warm, breezy summer day under the blue sky.
We took her down the Columbia River Gorge.
Actual quote from Michelle: I thought Kansas was green! (She’s just come from Mauritania so we can understand her)
The Columbia River Gorge is full of waterfalls, and must be one of the greenest places on earth. The modern highway runs alongside the river, the high cliffs echoing to the roar of constant trucks and trains, but a little further up the scenic highway winds its way through forests of fir and maple and oak. Silvery water cascades over mossy rocks; huge waterfalls thunder hundreds of feet to pound on brown rocks; myriad trails head up and up, switchbacking back and forth alongside streams, along cliffs, along steep drop-offs leading to more waterfalls.
The children claim to hate hate hate going on hikes. They whine, they complain, they gripe. Then, once we actually start walking, they scamper on ahead, often still whining. I don’t know why, but it sure is annoying.
But it is all worth it for the views.
Also, we now have two photographers in the family. I gave Abel my old camera, the one with sand in its sensitive bits so that it only works intermittently, and he loves it.
We hiked up to Fairy Falls, past many beautiful falls that have no names. In many ways, I thought this was as Fairy Falls should be, all mossy and cushiony green.
Don’t you think? But instead, Fairy Falls cascades over hundreds of rather pointy brown rocks.
We had a discussion and decided that the fairies aren’t the tiny kind, or they’d be crushed to bits by the force of the water. They must be the bigger kind that sit and comb their hair with silver combs under the fall of water, luring unwary passers-by to a doomed life of unhappiness and discontentment, like Angus in the Yeats poem.