Whenever I arrive back in Portland, I carry with me a palpable sense of excitement, nervousness and nostalgia. I have spent more years of my life in this often-grey Northwestern town, and I love it here. It is and probably always will be my home base – but that doesn’t necessarily make it home.
Arriving this time was different for me. Ever since Matt and I made the decision for him to extend his vacation and come to Portland with me to get to know my hometown, my friends and my family – a VERY loving and generous decision! – I was so excited to show everything off, hold his hand while wandering through downtown Portland, maybe catch some live music or a theatre performance, and get that extra time together! I’m proud of my hometown, filling Matt with tidbits of information and random trivia during long bus rides in Central America, and I knew that spending time with him here was going to make me feel more comfortable upon my arrival. Since every day together during the trip was memorable, magical, fun and unforgettable, I knew that our time here would be the same.
I flubbed our arrival, having concocted some story to make sure the door wouldn’t be locked when we got in at almost 1am, saying something about Jesika having to pick something up at the house but she got off work late. Of course my dad called her to figure out what the hell I was talking about, and since they’re smart people, they put two and two together. What no one was expecting was my walking through the back door with my honey by my side! Dad was asleep on the couch (sorry for putting that out in public, dad!) but once is eyes focused he was happy to see both of us! After staying up chatting for a bit and giving Matt the full tour of the house, we all set off to bed – it had been a long day, especially for Matt who was loving and patient enough to not tease me too badly about missing my flight in the early hours. Oh man, what a nightmare… (sidenote: I hope to NEVER AGAIN fly through the Houston Airport!)
Hoping to make the most out of every moment together, I was practically in tears when I was up sick. The flu had gotten to me my last night in Costa Rica, but the day I flew I was more-or-less fine. It came on again around 4am, leaving us no choice but to hunker down on the couch and watch movies. Honestly, spending an entire day snuggled up to Matt is not nearly as bad as it may sound 😉
My recovery was quick, though, and we were able to take advantage of the first sunny day in Portland that Saturday (after 43 days of rain!) and hit Saturday Market! Our day here was unbeatable, and there was a smile on my face that probably made me look like the “Joker”, but I didn’t care! Portland at its best: people out enjoying the weather, listening to live music, drinking beer, checking out art, chatting with strangers, eating new foods (elephant ears!) and walking along the waterfront. How can you beat that? After a short tour of downtown Portland, eventually we returned home. Other activities throughout the week included visiting 2 Naval ships that were docked at waterfront for Fleet Week (part of the Rose Festival), visiting the Full Sail brewery in Hood River, stopping at Multnomah Falls in the Columbia Gorge, shopping at Powell’s, visiting friends, dressing up for a nice dinner, and – more than anything – getting quality time together without having to worry about meeting up with the group, where we were going for dinner, waking up at a certain time, etc.
I think I took extra enjoyment in wandering around my neighborhood with him. These are the streets of my youth, of my memory. We walked to Grant park and I showed him where I used to eat lunch, told him stories about school, pointed out the Beverly Cleary statues near 33rd while explaining the importance of these books to most kids in the area, and was ultimately disappointed. Things that I was gearing up to show off to Matt, namely the “big peoples’ swings” in the park, had been removed! And so had the teeter-totters! I couldn’t believe it (and still can’t)! Matt helped me remember all the reasons I love this city, love my neighborhood, and planted seedlings of possibly being back here for a longer stay together….
The thing about coming home is that it’s never how you remember it: buildings are torn down and a bank built in its stead; streets that you have driven down hundreds of times are now redirected; your favorite climbing tree is removed and replaced with a water fountain; the store you used to shop at is now closed or has changed into a pharmacy (a lot of these references are dated but real, the last being the old Hollywood Fred Meyer that was a Payless and is now Rite-Aid); condos spring up around you and you wonder what dimension you stepped into. The nostalgia of your childhood mingles with feelings of loss and grief, while at the same time you’re elated to see that some things never change (Hollywood Burger Bar, Paulson’s Pharmacy).
Seeing all of this with Matt, through his eyes, made it so clear to me that the old saying is true: you can never go back. It also made me realize that perhaps because of this juxtaposition of memory and nostalgia against the urge to move forward and see new things is why I have always flourished in new surroundings. I am making new memories, not tied to the past, not invaded by haunting ghosts or thoughts. This is how I know that I am ready to continue on my path and learn a new city, find the favorite bar and coffee shop, and have yet another place to mourn when it changes. I’m ready to see a city through someone else’s eyes and stories. To build a new life together, sharing bits of the past but making the future all ours.
I was right about one thing: his visit here was spectacular and we continued to have a fantastic time together! Couldn’t imagine having that much fun with anyone else! ❤
NEP love always,