15 December 2012

Portland, Oregon has many old neighbourhoods.  Sellwood-East Moreland is the one my mother's family lived in.  She was born (1914) in their home.  I am not sure when her parents moved into the house but I think that they were the first family to live there.  I have looked at the house on Google maps and it is just the same.

Just like my other grandmother's house in Laurelhurst, my sister Candace and I roller skated a lot when we were younger when staying there.  We also walked to the large park nearby and played on the swings and swam in the outdoor  pool.  It was a lovely neighbourhood and quite frankly I just took it for granted.  My parents had both grown up in these good places, knew a lot of people there and to me there was a sense of belonging.  I can remember being "forced" to talk to a lot of the people my family knew there - to answer questions they asked me - so boring - but I am glad about it now and it contributed to my sense being part of something.  I never had the same feeling about Seattle when our family later moved there.

My mother's mother (Clara) was from Canada and my mother's father (Everett Stretcher) originally from Indiana.  Both of them migrated to Portland, met and were married there.  My grandfather came from a farming family in Indiana. He worked in a management position for the Portland Public Schools for many years and during that time he  bought a farm outside of Portland.  He spent time there during the weekends and then when he retired,  the farm was his "job".  My sister and I have a lot of good memories of the farm.  I never really knew my grandfather; he died when I was just two.  I did know my grandmother quite well.  She died when I was 18.  She was a bit of a character.  I loved her; I do think she was sometimes a fair bit of a problem for her daughter, my mother.

Candace (my sister) and I are not too clear about many of the details about our grandfather's family.  Some of them also located to Portland and we would  go to their farms outside of Portland for Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, Memorial Day, etc...  I remember the food - when the adults weren't looking, there would be "let's see how many rolls we can stuff in our mouths" contests - or "how much pumpkin, pecan or apple pie could you eat" contests - the kitchens were often in separate rooms and the adults would be sitting in the lounge and kids roaming around - near the kitchen.  This is the truth.  There was so much food, no one ever really noticed that we had taken some of it.

The adults wouldn't let us watch TV during these family occasions  and of course there weren't DVDs, etc. so what else we were to do but eat? 

The home where we often met belonged to my great-aunt Hazel Stretcher who lived in Hillsboro, Oregon outside of Portland.  It was a sleepy little town then.  Aunt Hazel played the organ and in the corner of her dining room was one.  It had various levels of keyboards on it with all kinds of pedals - it was huge.  It was amazing to watch her play it - hands and feet moving very fast.   Of course we wanted to "play" it too but were not allowed to touch it.

It reminds me of my other aunt's piano - Aunt Haddie (my father's mother's sister) had a grand piano, a Steinway, in a room off her lounge.  The piano took up almost the whole room.  There was only enough space for a couch at the end of the piano.  My sister and I played house under that piano when we were small.  There was a "support" under the piano in the middle of it.  The support divided the areas of the piano into "rooms" for my sister and me to play in or that is how we saw it. 

One incident that I will always remember is Candace and I going under the piano to play and me realising that something was different than before.  I looked up into the underside of the piano and saw many, many hooks that had been placed into the piano - they all had rings hanging off of them.  Most of the hooks had two or three rings.  There were also strings of pearls and other stones strung along the hooks - I wasn't sure why any of them were there but I knew that they belonged to Aunt Haddie.  I can remember getting up from under the piano and telling my father, who was sitting on the couch in the room, what I had seen and all he said was "Judas Priest" - his favourite remark - then later telling me it was my aunt's way of hiding things - what robber would look under a piano?

As I said, my maternal grandmother was definitely a 'character.'  Perhaps that has something to do with my parents' later move to Seattle.

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