Thursday, July 06, 2006

The power of grandkids

The following was submitted for may see it elsewhere, but you saw it here first:

Grandchildren have a curious effect on the older generation. They possess the ability to charm and enchant and make you do some very impractical things. Ours caused us to move 2500 miles across the country with all our possessions in a rented truck.

While conceptually friends understood our move, I don’t think they felt we were making a practical decision. However impractical our move was, it yielded a real bonus. Not only are we within four blocks of two little boys ages 5 and 1 ½, but we also now live in a wonderful section of the Pacific Northwest.

My wife and I visited Oregon (pronounced OR-agin by the locals) many times over the ten years since our daughter moved here. We came to understand the climate. For example, it does rain frequently in Oregon, but not as much as Midwesterners think. The annual rainfall in our part of the state is not much different than Holland. However, experiencing a long string of drizzly winter and spring days with periodic “sun breaks” does require some getting used to. There are, in fact, several climates in the state: the coast, the mountains, the valley, the Columbia River Gorge, and the high desert. Each is unique.

Geographically, the 45th Parallel runs through Oregon between Salem and Portland. In Michigan it crosses the state just south of Gaylord, but that is where the similarity ends. It rarely snows in the valley, so road crews do not use salt. The ground never freezes in the valley. Think of the implications. It impacts how houses are built, heated, and cooled. It also affects roads. My observation is that there are far fewer pot holes here.

Agriculturally, the valley produces everything from filberts to hops in great quantities. This is the “land of milk and honey” that those who traversed the Oregon Trail 150 years ago bet their lives and fortunes on.

Politically, Oregon has the reputation of being a maverick. It has progressive laws (more end of life choices) and we will be voting by mail come election day, but most of the state is quite traditional. It is not a good idea to make generalizations when you consider political attitudes of Oregon, just as it would be a mistake to judge Michigan’s politics after visiting only Ann Arbor or Holland. There are very cosmopolitan areas in the three largest cities (Portland, Salem, and Eugene), but if you want to be part of the old west, head over the mountains toward Baker City and Ontario and you will see real cowboys working on ranches.

So far I have not detected any tell-tale linguistic tones or colloquial sayings that identify Oregon speakers as you might in other areas (e.g., “you’ins,” Pennsylvania; “you betcha,” Minnesota; “…you too?” Michigan.) But we have not been here that long and I am sure we will hear some strange word patterns in time. My unscientific theory is that very few Oregonians are originally from here. At a recent men’s breakfast, I discovered only one of eight sitting at my table was born in Oregon. Most were from the Midwest and none were from the south. That same sample revealed three of the eight had moved here for the same reason I had: to be close to family.

Whether it is the Rose Garden in Portland, the Columbia River Gorge, the volcanoes of the Cascades, the ruggedly beautiful coast of the Pacific, or the wineries (there are over 30 in our county alone) Oregon is a great place to visit. I will not stress the fact that there is no sales tax (sweet), or that car insurance is significantly less expensive (yes!), and you don’t (make that, can’t) pump your own gas, as an enticement to live here, but they help.

If you are like us, none of that would enter in the decision to strap all your belongings on your back and travel the Oregon Trail (I-84). No, all we needed for us to head west was the vision of smiles on two little boy’s faces when “Grammy and Pappy” appear at the back door. That vision is now a reality…every day.

1 comment:

SLB said...

Those 2 little boys are so lucky to have you there! I don't think we'll be going anywhere... I feel like my parents are here watching over my boys.