I Have Never Once in My Whole Life Understood You

What if I’m spiritual, but I don’t believe in organized religion?

What if I want justice, but I don’t believe in organized rallies?

Should we open the zoos and let out all the animals?

Should we open the libraries and let out all the verse?

Maps are old-fashioned. They’re ancient. They point to places that aren’t even there any more.

Did your book clubs last? Mine started strong. I still read though. Every night I read.

Will our schools stop learning? Will we unspool education into threads?

In college they make you say — declare—what you will learn. Your major. The college says you have to —that you have to want to — learn one thing more than any other thing.

Study until they say you’ve studied it enough. Paper in a frame. Hang it.

I never not once in my life understood college. Not one time.

The transfer of knowledge from one person to another.  I dropped the baton. Then I found stuff on the ground I liked better. Ants and acorns. Shiny objects.

I thought things would make sense when I got older.

I eat healthy but I don’t believe in organized nutrition. Avocados can pray or not pray, as far as I’m concerned.

I can’t kneel at church. I don’t kneel. Don’t you know it’s taken me this long to stand tall, shoulders back, head up? Not everything is my fault.

I don’t believe in organized exercise. Pilates killed aerobics. Aerobics killed black coffee and cigarettes. If I want to run I’ll run to the basement and scream while the washer’s on so the neighbors can’t hear.

I drive but I don’t like organized transportation. Why should the government tell me where my sedan does and does not belong. Our old gray pickup growing up had three gears on the steering column. I stayed off the roads, so the government never found me. Underage driver. Coughing and sputtering and clouds of dust. Jerk shifts. I killed it.

I grew up far away from here. You never went there.

My friend Missy got her license and ten minutes later almost murdered us. Headed home from school at 90 mph. In some places 16 is still young enough to kill your friends.

I need a heart but I don’t believe in organized transplants.

Isn’t an audience just organized listeners?

If your alphabet isn’t organized you have a learning disability.

What if I like people but not all at once? What if I like people scattered, random, a little lost.

I have never once in my whole life understood you.

I want to make a church out of something you can’t see. What’s that sound? the kids will ask, looking up into their parents’ eyes. Eyes burning with love. With fire. What’s that sound?

We are closer now than we have ever been.

I have always wanted a god that had something to do with cardboard. Flea markets. A shaggy Shepherd wet from a storm, it shakes and the water drops fly. Who knows where they’ll scatter.

I miss people I don’t even know. I want to be with you. I want to zig and zag to get you a tissue in time when you sneeze. I want to be everything our Lord and Creator meant me to be. I want to share it with you. Everything I have.

But not every time.

 

Am I an Atheist Christian?

Do I believe in God? I have no idea. I think the problem is I don’t believe in believing.

I’m not trying to be difficult. I just don’t know what it means to say that I believe in something. What happens if I don’t? Does it *poof* go away?

Do I believe in good and evil? Of the two, I choose good. Does that make evil weaker? Is belief like voting? Is belief off in the wings, waiting for enough of us to choose wisely? After the votes are in, will the winning belief take the stage?

Is belief like wearing 3-D glasses? It’s the same stuff in the movie but with belief you get a heightened experience?

Do I believe in spring because it keeps coming? Do I believe in winter because you can’t stop it anyway? Do people in Arizona not believe in winter? Did they stop believing and their winter went away?

Does Arizona believe in my snowman?

Can I believe in sounds? Symphonies and speeches and heart-moving sermons? Do I have to believe in the air that carries the sounds? – because some days I can’t tell the air from nothing.

Kids believe in Santa Claus. Some of them get toys, some of them don’t. The child with the scooter believes. The child with the empty stocking, used to believe.

If I believe in soap, does it clean better? Am I absolved from bathing? If I believe in hot baths should I walk around carrying a bucket of hot water and a towel, because that’s who I am, that’s what I believe? Should I lug the towel and hot water around in case someone needs them? Does that make me a believer? Or a lugger? Can you be a believer and not a lugger?

Is it my great privilege to still be entertaining the idea of belief at all? Does that mean I haven’t had enough crap happen to make me give up this topic all together?

But there has been a lot of crap. About a wheelbarrow and a half. It might have been halfway into that second load I started to wonder…what is all this open and shut belief? Believe in God and nothing bad will happen to you?

And when the hard times come, if you have a lack of belief, then you know what your problem is. Ye of little faith, if only you’d believed. The crowd says tsk.

Is belief like a really, really long wish? A wish you wish your whole life? A good luck charm. Hold it tight in your palm and shut your eyes and imagine what you want, imagine it so so so so hard.

Do I believe in things because I love them? Do I believe in people because I love them? Because I need them? Do I believe in God in case no one else cares about me? Who wouldn’t pick God to be on their side? Who wouldn’t pick the biggest, strongest, smartest deity on the block. OF COURSE you’d say God was on your side, pulling for you night and day.

Do I believe any of what I’m saying? Do I believe in myself? Do I believe in the cancer that grew in my neck? I saw my lymph node. It looked like baloney. Did I believe in the doctors? I don’t know if I did, but I thought it important that they show up. I didn’t believe God was with me or watching me or teaching me a great big fat lesson. It just happened. I can tell myself it happened for any reason, I can tell any story, quote any book, tape any psalm on my bathroom mirror. The belief can’t make it real, not if I curated it. The story – the thing I tell myself so I can breathe, so I can hug my children good night and ever let go – that story is my story. I write it, and re-write it, every morning, so that I can get out of bed. Which means, it’s a story. I made it up. I made 3-D glasses and put them on. So I can stand to look.

Maybe I believe in stories. Maybe I’m believing in myself as the creator of my own stories and not thanking God for giving me the ability to make them. Or maybe I’m cutting out the middle man.

Is there still time to become a believer? Could things go smoother here on out? Could I save myself a lot of trouble? I see the believers at their party. My old neighbor, she checked in with God on the tiniest decisions, God told her the answer, and she never looked back. I say, lovely. How nice to think belief is driving the minivan, while I’m back here piling rocks behind mud-stuck tires.

I can’t conceive of a life where I don’t question: everything. I believe in the questions. If I believe in anything, it might be them.

Maybe it’s not clear. Except for a time in my twenties, I’ve gone to church all my life, quite often thought to be a place for people who believe in God. Yet the more I attend, the less and less I believe. I’ve been told by a religious person this is okay. (Thank you, Episcopalians.)

And if I understand less than ever, there’s a contented sense of wondering. Maybe it’s moving farther away from categories, the yes/no’s, the columns. Heading out into the Great Something, something you feel in your gut. You are in some kind of communication with it, no? So what is that?

I’ve made some sort of loving liturgical commitment to my gut.

When I had the cancer, I was 25. A few days after the diagnosis, I sat on the edge of the bed. The shock was there but I was tired of crying. I looked out the window and it was a sunny July morning. Like you couldn’t believe. I tried to pray but shook my head, fuck it, and then I had this weird experience, a feeling and an image in my head of the prayers and church and God as I’d known them as so much scaffolding, and that scaffolding just buckling and falling slowly and gracefully and beautifully to the ground. And THAT was a peace that surpassed understanding. Peace like a semi-truck. Like wasabi lighting up your head.

Years later, I can’t begin to describe how beautiful it was. I still remember it, though I’m older now, the upstairs bedroom with the creaky wood floors, a crack moving diagonally up the wall, and, that weird dusty peace streaming in the window. Peace that was utterly familiar. And completely unknown.

I think of that peace sometimes. It lets me come in and visit, again and again. And every time I can get there, it’s like the peace was waiting for me to come back. Like it knew I would. Like it believed in me.

Celebrities: We’re Just Like You

Celebrities. We need gas. We need groceries. Our kids want to go to the park. We push them on the swings. Sure there are some divas, but a lot of celebrities are pretty down to earth. And it’s the same for families with Down syndrome.

Celebrities. And Down syndrome. We’re just like you.

We’re in line at Starbucks. You see us. We see you see us. We see the stare that lasts a half second too long. You look away. But you’ll look again. You have to. You have to be sure of what you’re seeing. Something at once familiar and new.

Wait? Is that…?

Celebrities. And Down syndrome. It’s hard not to look.

Some of you want to talk. We have something in common and you will tell us what it is. The checker at Fred Meyer lights up to see my daughter. One look at her uncorks his memories of working with adults with disabilities. It was amazing. It changed his life. A transformation. All these years he’s never forgotten. He shakes his head, remembering.

But we only came for milk.

We didn’t tie our shoes this morning and say, okay family, let’s go out there and show them what a family with a disability is. We don’t wear badges, we’re not official representatives. We have school. We have work. We have seven errands on our to-do list and if we stop and Have An Experience with every person we encounter we’re not going to make the dry cleaners by five.

Celebrities. And Down syndrome. Sometimes we just want to walk down the street, like a regular family. Sometimes we want to blend in. But you can’t put the cork back in the bottle.

Celebrities. And Down syndrome. You think we remember you. From a concert, a train trip, the taqueria. From my daughter’s school. Four hundred children, of whom 300 and their parents greet her by name, while I look blankly at their child, hoping to return the greeting. I have no idea. I’m so sorry people. What are we calling you now? Regular people? Civilians? Typicals? I have to tell you a secret. All you non-disableds? You all look the same. I can’t tell one blonde-haired girl in leggings from another.

What’s the alternative? People could ignore us? Turn away in horror? We could go back to segregating people, locking us in categories—physical, social, economic. Adjectives for all. Adjectives that unlock some doors, double-bolt others.

This all sounds really ungrateful. Would it kill me to listen to some lady at the MAX stop talk about her niece while her dog sniffs my shoe – is that my re-payment for having a child who wasn’t whisked away at birth? This might sound selfish and entitled but being grateful that my daughter lives her life in full view of society feels a little like being grateful I was never sold as a child bride. Um, sure, but in Portland, Oregon, kind of removed.

Undoubtedly someday, too soon, I will miss people talking to us. Stopping me to tell me how adorable my daughter it. We hear it all the time. The person at Powell’s has no idea we just heard this in World Cup and before that in the Rose Room and before that on the streetcar.

What a luxury to complain about someone complimenting your child. First world problem? First and a half? And it will seem either a paradox or disingenuous when I say that I appreciate every comment. I know that doesn’t make sense. Parents of other kinds of children assuredly hear familiar comments that fit their child’s “category”–twins for example. Parents in general hear many of the same comments over and over. “Got your hands full,” is a popular one.

Given that children with disabilities were until embarrassingly recently hidden away, blotted from existence, being noticed in public perhaps has a special resonance. And I don’t blame the public. The public hasn’t had much practice. And the fact that so many people aren’t sure what to say and reach out anyway carries special weight.

So while this will seem hypocritical, I thank people from the bottom of my heart for trying to connect with us. Maybe they’re trying to make up for the past. Maybe they are acknowledging the recent injustice. Maybe they see the little social triumph that is my daughter, in her pink flowered flip-flops stirring her hot chocolate to cool it down. And if they want to offer a little thumbs up? What crank could have a problem with that?

Not to mention, my daughter, is pretty adorable. But she’s six. Heading toward seven. One day 10 and 11, the awkward years. She’s going to be an adult. People can’t call her adorable when she’s forty. She’s going to need to be noticed for her other characteristics. She is also kind, thoughtful, silly as a snail sandwich, and as I tell her multiple times a day, a hard worker, which is the understatement of all time.

Celebrities. And Down syndrome. It’s good to have a fallback, after the looks fade. One day the smiles will dry up, the comments, the conversations, the adorables. Just like they say you’ll eventually miss every aspect of parenting you currently struggle with, I will hate myself for complaining, for not realizing it could be so much worse.

What if my daughter grows up and no one notices her? What if someone gives her a hard time, makes a rude comment, and no one looks, no one sees. And I’m nowhere. No one who loves her is anywhere. And the smilers? Well, lady, you told us not to. You told us to leave her alone and let her live. We’re just treating her like we treat everyone else. We’re busy and we’re tired and we don’t have time to notice anyone. So welcome to the club.

Celebrities. And Down syndrome. It’s a tough game. You catch us in isolated moments. Sweet moments. Awkward moments. Unglamorous moments. Maybe you think the moment stands in for the whole story. But even we don’t know the whole story. We are stumbling, struggling, piecing it together, while the opinions, the trolls, come quick and furious, darts at a dartboard.

Celebrities. And Down syndrome. Images in the public’s eye. Skin deep. One-dimensional.

Take a look.

A deeper look.

My Husband’s New Wife

My husband’s new wife is a peach. I really like her. My husband is the happiest he’s ever been.

She’s the kind of woman I always thought I’d be.

She and my husband have so much in common. If they don’t have it in common, she gets it in common. If he describes the cool way the circuit-amp-breaker-plugs were wired in our new living room she says Wow that’s fascinating and doesn’t excuse herself to watch Downton Abbey.

My husband’s new wife likes war movies. She thinks chick flicks are lame. She doesn’t watch a romance and then sigh and glare at her husband and think not once have you stood in my yard with a boombox over your head blaring an 80s love song.

Even if she did like chick flicks she wouldn’t get annoyed by the term chick flicks and say then why we don’t call war movies dick flicks and my husband wouldn’t have to sigh and think Lord not this again.

My husband’s new wife thinks bacon is a food group. She does not order pizza with zucchini on it. She doesn’t know any recipes for garbanzos.

She never gets PMS. She’s never happy and sad at the same time and all weeping into the salad spinner, not knowing why she’s crying except that love is huge and pain is huge and when it all gets too big it doesn’t fit in her heart and has to come leaking out as tears.

My husband’s new wife owns makeup. And she wears it. She can shade and contour and conceal.

When she’s back from a run she changes out of the sweaty running clothes.

My husband’s new wife says thank you when he unloads the dishwasher,

thank you when he folds laundry,

thank you when he replaces the bar of soap which never happens.

She doesn’t care if he doesn’t change the toilet paper. She just changes it!

If he leaves a wet towel on the bed she just picks it up! Or lets it sit there and grow mushrooms! They eat them for dinner! Wrapped in bacon!

My husband’s new wife thinks, he does so much. He’s a good dad. He is give give give. Why bug him about stupid stuff?

Before she married my husband she dated some real losers. She remembers walking through the city alone, boot-steps on concrete. She will never forget the miracle of waking up to see this incredible person next to her. By what miracle is he here? Sharing life with her. Step by blessed step.

You don’t find this every day.

My husband’s new wife fills his car when it’s on empty. Week after week. She doesn’t say do you ever fill this thing??

She doesn’t say ever. She doesn’t say you always, you never.

When his alarm goes off at 5:00…5:07…5:14…she doesn’t knee him in the back.

She doesn’t save him the last chocolate chip cookie and then resent him for actually eating it.

She isn’t kind and generous and then needing neon signs to point out how kind and generous she is. She’s not writing the invisible book of her loveliness.

When my husband decides he’s going Paleo two days before Thanksgiving his new wife doesn’t think, oh my fucking hell. She orders a cookbook. She makes a pecan pie out of cauliflower.

My husband’s new wife doesn’t talk to him when he’s on his phone. She doesn’t frown and convey her silent judgement that he’s wasting time with this tiny screen that he could be spending talking to her.

When his new wife wants to talk, she waits until he’s ready. She can wait forever.

She’s not younger but she seems younger. She has endless energy. She thrives on tasks. She organizes coat drives. She shapes policy. She has a career she never quit, thinking it was more important to make homemade diapers out of organic cotton that she grew in her backyard. She didn’t stumble out of the preschool years, squinting into the light going, where the hell am I?

She is supremely confident and there’s nothing sexier. Your husband’s old wife would feel confident but then worried that her confidence made her arrogant. She lopped herself. She gave when she had nothing to give. She accepted emptiness.

My husband and his new wife entertain every weekend, drink apple martinis by the fire pit. She invites his college buddies, high school buddies, she doesn’t grumble and say how did she get in charge of his friends what is she his mother?

He stops working on weekends. He stops because she calmly and clearly and showing gratitude for his contributions to the household explains that this is not working for her. She asks for what she needs. And because she can do this, he hears her.

My husband’s new wife plans romantic trips to Colorado or maybe Zurich. It is assumed that time together is more important than elite swim camps for the kids.

My husband’s new wife loves our children, to pieces, but she does not let them dictate their lives. They sleep in their own beds. Their needs are not more important than hers. Or their needs as a couple. How could there be anything more important, she says, than the well-being of the people responsible for the children’s well-being?

It makes so much sense when she says it.

My husband’s new wife feeds on chaos. It fuels her. She likes when two kids and a husband talk to her all at the same time while the phone’s ringing and the timer’s going off and possibly in the oven is a small fire. Her hair doesn’t pop out on end like she’s been electrocuted.

My husband’s new wife is everything he wanted, all he dreamed of. Everything his mother wanted for him, when she gazed at him in his crib, wondering who was out there for her beautiful baby boy. My husband is happier than he’s ever been. He wonders why sometimes it seemed so hard.

Not any more, dear husband. Your new wife is coming.

2015.

It’s still a new year. It’s still possible.

I am your old wife.

And your new wife.

I’m really going to like her.

I’m going to like them both.

5 Things I (Still) Don’t Get About Facebook

For some people, Facebook is an escape. For me, it’s heading right into the rats-den.

Do I “Like” enough?
Can you Like too much? Do other Facebook people shake their heads and say, “Geez she Likes a lot.” If you like too many things do people think you’re easy? “Oh that Like doesn’t mean anything, she’ll Like anything.”

Why do some people never Like me? Ever? Not even once?
Am I not interesting? Do I not select visually appealing photographs? I never did learn to use that Instagram thing. You can say a lot with sepia.

I’ve posted my kids, they’re super cute. They do cute things. If you’d read you’d see what a cute thing they said. What are you, made of stone?

I should get a cat.

Or are they not even reading it? Are people just scrolling past me, looking for their real friends? Looking for athletic-shoe freebies?

I should get my Mom on Facebook.

Did you accept my friend request only to dump me in some “Group” abyss of people you never have to think about again?
Every now and then I think, huh, I swore so-and-so and I were friends but come to think of it I have never actually seen a single post. Maybe they are really super busy. Maybe they are “on” Facebook but “never go on it.” Or maybe they relegated me to a group. A group called “Flotsam” or “Miscellaneous Past Acquiantances” or “untitled” because it’s not even worth your time to give all us social lint-bunnies a name.

How soon until we become intimate?
We had ninth grade English together. Teamed up for a project on The Merchant of Venice. It was a really fun English class. We did real good on Shakespeare. Pound of flesh and all that. Super good.

I haven’t seen or talked to you in 29 years. Except for the A on our team project and a vague remembrance of your red and white Norsport sneakers, I don’t know anything about you. Twenty-nine years later, the first post I see of yours is that after years of infertility, you are pregnant with twins. A boy and a girl. That’s fabulous.

Do I jump out of the past with a giant banner shrieking “Congratulations!” It seems kinda personal. Like I haven’t earned that kind of closeness. When we met I didn’t even have my period. And now we’re all up in your uterus. I signed your yearbook with bubble letters. Are we frozen in time? Today we are not in each other’s lives. The only reason we are now connected is because of an experience from the past. If we leave the past, do we actually have anything? Should I comment on your post with a cascade of rainbow hearts? Is there an emoticon for Olivia Newton-John? I want this to work.

When do I Like and when do I Comment?
Did I mention I’m an introvert? Likes are better for introverts. And lazy people. Are some people just Likers and some Commenters? Dogs/cats? Boxers/briefs? Liking seems a lot easier. Like microwaving water for tea instead of waiting for the boring old kettle.

Elan Morgan (www.schmutzie.com) has a great article about how she stopped Liking for two weeks and made herself write out comments. She felt more connected, which is what this is supposed to be all about. Right? Right?!!

But to Comment, I have to think of something. I have to spell, construct parts of language. And what if I comment and someone already made that comment which is fine if it’s a no-brainer like “Happy birthday” or “Have a great time at OysterFest!” but not if it’s something more complicated like “I never knew you could drive and take movies at the same time! Eeks!” But maybe the Eeks sounds like I’m reprimanding. Maybe the whole thing sounds judgmental. I should read the other comments first. This is taking too long. Never mind, just Like it.

There is a strong suggestion from Wise People that says throw it all out there, fly your flag, open your heart… it all sounds good except: I don’t want to look stupid. I don’t want to expend more of my personal stock of warmth and caring than is ABSOLUTELY WARRANTED. This feels important.

We’re friends. Really. We are.
I sent you a friend request – thinking of that chunk of time we shared, the talks, the thoughts. You accepted my friend request. So I’m all thinking, oh you remember too.

I run into you at a wedding. It’s been years. Last time I saw you we were both young. We hug. We are glad to see each other. You wrinkle your eyebrows, “I think maybe we’re friends on Facebook or something?” The “or something” is a dagger. I feel like the over-eager little sister. “Yeah,” I say. Here I’ve been Liking, maybe even going to Facebook Second Base by leaving a Comment. Here I thought we were at least remotely connected, when actually, in Facebook world, the only world we now share, you don’t know I’m alive.

The next time I see one of her posts, I see that she has 996 friends. We are not actually friends. We are people together in the mall during a super awesome shoe sale.

How do I keep from being the 1st to Like something?
I’ve come across a post that was great, enlightening, a cool photo that reaches across boundaries to unite and inspire. And my impulse has been, “Amazing!” I get my pointer finger ready, ready to tap that Like button with enthusiasm.

Then I realize. No one has Liked it yet. And I’m not actually that close to this person. We worked together ten years ago. In different departments no less. Hmmm. When was this posted? Seven minutes ago. I could Like and hope others Like after me. SOON after. I don’t want to be the one Liker dangling out there. That would seem way too intimate. That would seem like me and the Poster were closer than we are. It would be like we were a two-some, a team, maybe even dating.

If the post has been there for hours and NO ONE has Liked or Commented, I’m sorry, I’m not touching it. You’ll have to hang out here, in your brilliance, alone.

Maybe by your next post, I will have become a stronger person.

A lot of people would like that.

 

 

From PO to LO: Is There Life After Portland?

Link

Is there life after Portland, home of the weird? This week we move to Lake Oswego, Oregon, home of the…?

Stereotypes work both ways. In many ways, Portland’s hip weird alternative reputation is just another stereotype. I mean, I live here, I seemingly fit in. And I can attest on a stack of compost that I am nowhere close to hip.

I know this, I always felt at home in Portland. Over the years I wandered, searching for home in New York, Boston, Baltimore, Washington, D.C. Waiting for home to hit me in the face. When I moved back from the East Coast for the third and final time, and I came up over the Marquam Bridge from the airport, where Tom McCall Park and the waterfront first rise into view, it was like the hole inside me was healed. And I thought, maybe home doesn’t hit you in the face. Maybe home hugs you in the gut.

The forests, the Willamette, the bridges, Mount Hood. The glowing articles in the New York Times talk about Portland’s cupcakes and whiskey bars. It’s true, there are a lot of nice blocks with a lot of nice places. But when you live your life here, you know where Portland is. To see Portland, you look up and around. To see Portland, you see the clouds, ten feet over your head. And they remind you that here, things are close to you.

So now the moving truck heads ten miles south. When we tell our Portland friends we found a house they are excited! “Where is it?” Expecting the old Portland neighborhoods – Laurelhurst, Sellwood, Eastmoreland. We say Lake Oswego and they say:

“Oh.”

This past year alone we have met families from Chicago, New York, Ohio, Michigan, another from New York, another from Michigan, southern California, Arizona, central California, another from central California, and more I’m forgetting. Portland has become a meet-up spot. These people didn’t pack up their lives and move two thousand miles to come to an off-shoot, a shadow, a little sister of Portland. They came for what was promised in the ad.

To Portlanders, I believe, Lake Oswego is:

a bunch of rich white people

conformist

homogenous

without culture

without sidewalks

a foodie wasteland

Or maybe these are my own fears.

I know this, crime is lower, schools are smaller, and you can hear birds. It is my feeling that I will be able to let my children play in our front yard. I also know this: in Portland I almost never ride my bike, I repeatedly drive the car when I could have walked, and I’ve never been to organic ocean-sustainable Bamboo Sushi but buy the eight pack in the plastic tray from Trader Joe’s. (Which I drive to.)

Maybe Portland was the possibility. That I might one day put on an ironic cowboy hat and direct an art film in my driveway.  That I might tear up the front lawn and grow a one-loaf-a-summer patch of wheat. That I one day might loosen the shackles that weld me to safety and conformity. That I might be everything I am free to be. Marlo Thomas. There is a land that I see, take my hand and we’ll run, it’s right out the window. In Portland the best was yet to come.

In Portland you never grow old.

In ways then, our move to the suburbs feels like a door closing. That we are going there to build the final nest, our children’s base camp as they age and launch into adulthood. This move is for them, not us.

Moving to Lake Oswego feels like getting married. Not that I was a crazy single person -but the options were there. In the suburbs it seems there is an expectation, a commitment to the stable. There may be nights spent downtown in a hotel after a night of turtle soup and Afghani film, but I will never again live here. I will never be: from Portland, for seventeen years the coolest thing, by far, that could be said about me. I have no idea why at this age I still give any credence to anything as shallow and immature as the word “cool”.

I tried to make it work. Raising kids in the city. The diversity, as we say. Sure everyone was actually white like us, but there were different KINDS of white people. There were white people on homemade unicycles, white people with beards down to their high tops, there were white people dressed up as kitty cats. What better place to teach the children that there is a place for you here in this world, whatever you are.

It got harder to explain the man who stormed down our sidewalk as we unlocked our front door. “DON’T GO IN THERE! DON’T YOU DARE GO IN THERE!!!” he shouted at us, high on meth.

And now that my son can read, free-speech redolent Portland offers a highway lined with darkened parlors full of naked dancers. There’s not a route to the dentist that doesn’t pass a strip joint. I did okay explaining “Lucky Devil”. It got harder to explain Hot Hot Hot Girls. And why they were so sweaty.

I’m scared to move to Lake Oswego. I’m excited to move to Lake Oswego. The truck comes Saturday. Have we hidden our treasures in faceless cardboard? How will we arrange this new life? Will there be a place for everything we’re bringing? What will be missing?

The road goes south. In geologic time, it’s a blip. In the context of the globe and the millions of people and what people struggle through, this is nothing. We’re heading down the road, to see what we find there.