Wow. On this day in 1968, (it was Memorial Day, then celebrated on May 31, not the Monday preceding) along with my parents and my white rubber boots, (not super-cool go-go boots but common rain boots), I made my first-ever visit to Newberg. It was a tiny farming community with but one traffic light and a population of just over 4000 inhabitants. My parents were charmed by the beautiful, rustic quality of the farm house, a building erected in 1904 with neither insulation nor electricity (fortunately, it was later retrofitted for electricity). The weather was typical Oregon spring; cold, wet, dark and depressing. We made the long – L - O- N - G drive from our home in southeast Portland, (a zip code President Johnson had previously declared a ‘poverty pocket’) and followed the directions we received after calling the number listed in the For Sale by Owner ad:
“Ten acres of Producing Filberts & MarionBerries along with large Family Orchard. Private water district, newer septic, comfortable, historic home, laying hens and numerous outbuildings. To view, Call XXX-XXXX.”
They did, (call) and the rest is history. We finally found Newberg, made the turn on Villa Road, (“just follow the signs to the hospital then turn left at the end of Villa onto our lane ((how Mama loved that term – ‘our lane’)) just 1.2 miles past the hospital” (Funny, it was never described as ‘just a mile or so past’ it was always 1.2 miles.) The bumpy driveway and driving rain gave way to our first view of the farmhouse. Truly, from the exterior it WAS a lovely sight. Stately old white house with cheery café curtains at each window, wide front porch, (“look, Chuck, we can hang the porch swing right there”) and a home ablaze in lights. The entire picture was one of welcome.
Car doors open for a scant second, two young boys were at or side, greetings flowing, “Hi, I’m Banny and that’s my brother Babid. I’m four-and-a-half but I’ll be five soon. Babid will be seven next week. Wanna go see our stick cave?” (I’m not exaggerating…that’s how he spoke.)
Escorted to the back door, (“Oooh, look, Chuck. Look at that cute storm cellar door. I’ll bet it would be great for storing vegetables from the garden for the winter”) , a lovely woman nick-named Army, one-half of the current ownership of the farm, opened the back door allowing the heady aroma of fresh bread, a baking pie and a perfect stew bubbling atop the stove to envelop us. Clearly, she was a master marketer.
Mother and Daddy were enchanted by the farm. Never mind virtually every window in the house was cracked, never mind the house was heated – first floor only; there was no heat upstairs – by a wood-burning furnace (Army assured us she just ‘banked the fire overnight and tossed a bit of paper and some firewood in the morning.’ I think she, well, I won’t say she lied, she exaggerated a bit.) Never mind my parents knew nothing about farming (‘how difficult can it be? Just drive the tractor when you need to plow, spray some chemicals when it’s time…’)
The farm was never what I wanted; I envisioned rolling wheat fields, horses and saddles when in reality it was dirt farming in the truest sense. But I lived through it and it makes for some great stories. It allowed for my parents to have a comfortable retirement and a great place for my daughters to spend summers, free. Free from Mom and Dad, free from responsibility, free from accountability. I recall one example in particular. Erin, the quintessential eldest child was helping Nana with some domestic task for which Nana rewarded her with actual, cold hard cash. Not wanting to slight Kristen who wasn’t able (maybe wasn’t willing) to help, Nana doled out the dollar bills saying, “here, Erin. This is for helping me. And Kristen, here, this is for…I dunno, breathing.”
Some good memories of the farm, (the epic waterfights at the end of a long day picking berries that ended with everyone in the pool, the near legendary parties Mother and Daddy held after a day in the filbert orchard, the day we co-mingled Mother and Daddy’s ashes and, in violation of the law, scattered them on what was left of the farm (the orchard was there. The berries were long gone). Some not good memories, (that first filbert harvest took us until December 22 to complete. December 23 we began pruning the filbert trees. It was decades before I liked filberts.)
Today is a very different day in terms of the weather alone. Thanks for the memories. Thanks for the lessons. Thanks, Mother and Daddy. Thanks.