Monday, February 20, 2023

Back Up North

We have had a lot of time with the grandkids this past year or so, but we realized that almost all of it was in San Francisco. We think that the last time we visited them in their home town of Portland was for Zadie’s 10th birthday in November, 2021, when we organized a scavenger hunt for her birthday party. 


So it felt like we were overdue for visit to their home town and what better excuse than to see Zadie play basketball on a team she’s been with these past few months. Sitting in the bleachers was yet another trip down the road of her mother’s childhood and mostly delightfully so. Especially since Zadie had her best game of the season, scoring 6 points, assisting other shooters, getting rebounds, blocking shots, stealing the ball— all of which helped lead to the team’s second victory of the season. She hugged us afterwards and confided, “You brought me luck!”


If any readers remember my last interaction with Zadie at the end of our Palm Springs vacation in December, it was a low point in our relationship. A full-scale battle between the innocent (mostly) happy girl gleefully playing and loving time in the natural word and the emerging Eminem-fan/ Mortal Kombat playing/ eye-rolling version created by a far-too young puberty. It was a Jekyll and Hyde tour-de-force and thought there were some truly wonderful connections during that visit, it ended on a sour note. So I didn’t know what to expect and will confess that I was nervous headed up this way. While inwardly reminding myself to not take anything personally or react with outrage and to try to understand what was raging inside her too-rapidly-changing body-mind. 


When I told her I wanted to come visit her class and sing some songs, as I have done every visit since preschool, she replied, “Oh, my God!! You can’t!! That would embarrass me SO MUCH!!!!” So I had reason to be concerned, while still holding steady to my determination to sing with her class. For three reasons:


1) These are the kids I sang with online every week during her 3rd grade COVID year. They knew me, they learned a certain repertoire of songs and of course, I wanted to sing with them again. 


2) Her teacher went to the SF School and both my wife Karen and I taught her for many years. So of course, we wanted to visit HER class. (And she is excited about that!)


3) The school is marked as a Social Justice School and the kids deserve to learn the songs that they’re not learning that framed the struggles of the 60’s. And learn the stories behind them. I have at least eight songs ready to go, with a Powerpoint and relevant images. 


So… Zadie and I have had a lovely three days, no unexpected explosions or meltdowns, an easy return to our go-to Rummy 500 games and tonight, her fourth Hitchcock film. The first night had a lovely visit with my nephew Ian, yesterday a wonderful brunch with my college friends Gabe and Steve and their three grandchildren, followed by a hike up to the Pittock Mansion and a fun dinner discussing the pluses and minuses of an 11-year old starting to drink coffee. 

Today was basketball with her and her brother Malik, a bus ride and walk to Hawthorne Street, a lunch out at Cha Cha Cha, a visit to Powell’s bookstore and buying books for both her and Malik and a delicious quiet time reading and drawing that just now ended. 


When the school visit comes up, there’s a little squeak of protest, but I believe she has accepted it. I’ll let you know tomorrow. 


As for Portland, it’s cold (40’s) and grey and we passed a disturbing apartment building with a big sign: “ARMED TENANTS. STEAL GAS-GET SHOT” and equally disturbing tent-city of homeless folks downtown. And yet lovely parks (Laurelhurst!), wonderful people (lots of friends here) and when the sun comes out, it’s glorious. 


The kids are released from their quiet time and the “STOPS!” have begun. And so I will.  

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