August 29, 2009 8:17:00 PM
Perfect Portland. That''s what my family calls it, this beautiful jewel of a city on the edge of our continent.
I am here visiting my family. My sister, Victoria, and her husband, Rich, were transferred here. In the term "upwardly mobile," the emphasis is on "mobile." Mother followed a few years later to be with her only grandchild, Gillian. My mother''s generation reproduced. Mine did not. She had three children and only one grandchild. No one expected that.
Gillie is a teen now. The legs of a Vegas showgirl grow from raggedy vintage jeans, ending in green toenails, the color of a key lime pie.
"I only paid $5 for these pants," she brags. Thank heavens for that. She has cut off the pants legs, unevenly, leaving a fringe of jagged denim strings.
We are having lots of fun. Pedicures and shopping, way too, too much eating, and just enjoying the rare blending of our ages.
One evening we all go to a performance of "Fiddler On The Roof." It is the farewell tour for Topol, the original Tevya. His voice is still strong at age 74, and his high kicks, amazing as well. The audience adores him, and I wonder how he will be able to give up such complete worship. The standing ovation feels as if it will go on forever.
I ask Rich if he plans to choose Gillie''s husband. This is a nod to the play''s theme, and everyone laughs.
"Yes," he answers. "I am looking for a match with someone who doesn''t lose his retainer." I suppose it will be a few years before this subject re-emerges.
My niece is a study in contrasts. Spiky, red hair frames a face that could have been the model for a Botticelli cherub. Before I leave she promises to add some pink streaks to my very Southern-belle frosted hair. (Apologies to my hairdresser, Sherri.) I can''t wait.
My mother and sister have set me up in an apartment of my own. I feel as if I were in an elegant spa hotel. They have filled it with flowers and amenities. In the kitchen is wine, gourmet cheeses, grapes, olives and chocolate. It is a subtle sort of campaign to entice Chris and I to consider a move to Oregon.
Days here are sunny, with cool nights. Some trees have begun to show signs of autumn. Tips of branches glisten with a touch of gold or red. It will be another month before the Columbus flora feels fall''s chill. Another month, too, before we can stash our summer clothes and don sweaters and boots.
I am so grateful that Victoria is acting as my chauffeur. Traffic is terrifying. Streets circle around mysterious islands of flowers in the middle of intersections. There appear to be as many bikers, joggers and even unicyclists as there are cars. All those folks in Columbus who complain about parking would never believe this parking nightmare.
"Portland really does not encourage people to drive everywhere," explains my mother. "We have excellent public transportation, The Max (a very speedy light rail), and city-owned bikes for everyone to use."
Beautiful fountains are scattered throughout the city. Some are waterfalls. Some are rippling ponds. All are for wading and splashing in. Children and adults take advantage of these watery sculptures.
The idea of public fountains intrigues me. How great these would be in the South! Wouldn''t it be fun to cool the summer air, and our fiery feet, with artistry and fantasy streams?
Leaving Portland will be bittersweet. It is a long, tedious journey from here to there, one I do not make often enough. But, I will be back in Columbus soon, because I miss my children, my friends, and most especially, Chris.
See you soon. Look for a woman in Columbus with pink hair.
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina. E-mail reaches her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.
2. A Southern favorite: Rick Bragg to speak in Fayette ENTERTAINMENT