TENTH ANNIVERSARY EDITION
At left, a peek at the beautiful rural Oregon countyside during a side trip.
At right, Joyce (right) and friend Mickey Tachibana pose by the illustrated door to
her room at the Edgefield resort, a former county poor house.
By JOYCE KIEFER
The five of us women stared at the ticket machine for the metro train to downtown Portland. We were about to begin a four-day adventure of sightseeing, catching up on our lives, and caressing 50 years of memories as friends since college days. Two of us had driven in from other parts of Oregon and three had flown in from California. We would catch the Max into town and transfer to a bus that would take us to the Nob Hill area and a tasty lunch.
Three of us had already become lost, searching for the train station in the wrong direction. Now that we were together, wed buy our tickets and begin the activities that our resident Oregonians had planned for us. With their skills as former teachers, they put together a jam-packed program of tours, sightseeing and lunches.
The first thing we had to do was follow instructions on the ticket machine.
But the machine said, Not so easy!
Not literally, of course. It started out nice, offering special rates to honored (not senior) citizens. Surely it would honor us fogies with a simple process, since we still remember how easy it was to buy tickets from live human beings. We wanted group tickets, so Diane volunteered her credit card. Rub card on the square, the machine said with instructions printed in English and Spanish. She pressed her card lightly, then heavily. She even rubbed it. Nothing. We took turns. We tried shoving it into a slot. Take that!
Gotcha, said the machine.
Collectively the five of us have taken metros on all the continents where metros exist. And the reason we were together was that we had been members of Black Masque, a women students honor society at San Jose State. Membership required good grades and leadership.
But we couldnt outsmart the ticket machine.
I walked over to a truck labeled transportation service and asked the driver what tricks we needed to produce tickets. He took a bite of his sandwich and advised us to ignore the machine, get on the train, get off at the next stop, and buy the tickets at a different machine. This could be dangerous. I recalled the Budapesti Metro from my travels abroad. Since Hungarian isnt an easily interpreted language, my husband and I assumed the instructions told us to insert the tickets into a slot that would either stamp them or swallow them up. The machine refused to do either. We boarded with visions of ending up in a prison run by the police who put down the Revolution of 1956.
Oregon might be a gentler place.
By the time I returned to my group, my friends had cornered a young man who pushed this and that button and produced our tickets. We were on our way.
Squaring off with machines is just one of lifes changing demands that weve faced and shared for almost 50 years.
Altogether, the 12 of us have had 18 husbands and 39 children and step-children. We brag about our 60 grandchildren. One woman who was unable to join us was hospitalized with depression a few weeks after our trip. Joanne was in Italy with her boyfriend. Her husband passed away a few years ago. Four of us have experienced widowhood. Sandy died 17 years ago. Some of us no longer keep in touch.
Those of us who remain friends have shared our tragedies and have learned to savor the unplanned, the quirky, the beautiful.
After our day in Portland we headed for our rooms at the poor farm.
Diane booked us at McMenamins Edgefield resort, which was the Multnomah County Poor Farm when I first visited Portland as a child. The farm was built with the belief that the poor could enjoy fresh air and country living while growing their own food. Even then, Oregon recycled. The pigs ate the leftovers from the dining room.
over the map
to see the
They are, from left, Diane Speckman, Judy Simpson, Mickey Tachibana
We paired up into large, comfortable rooms. Each door had the name and painting of what I assumed was a local character. My door featured Gretchan, with blank gray eyes, pulling at her long, dark hair. Clearly one of Oregons other crops was doing her good. We went to the on-site winery (never part of the poor farm) to do some tasting. Caught up in our distracting conversation, Diane put her tip in the dump jar.
Our joy is that we dont deny our lapses in concentration.
The next day the five of us piled into one compact car and drove up the Columbia Gorge. Orange and red leafed trees blazed out of the mist. Each long, slender waterfall had its distinct character. We went on to the sunlit Hood River Valley and checked out the produce stands and an alpaca farm. A pointy snow clad sentinel framed each end of the valleyMt. Adams on one side, Mt. Hood on the other. In all my trips to Oregon, I had never seen this lovely place.
That night we gathered in our larger room for snacks and conversation. Marilyn shared her daughters blog on how shes fighting brain cancer. She showed us a picture of this young woman at her wedding reception, raising a glass of champagne with her once-paralyzed arm.
I brought along a camcorder and recorded our memories of San Jose State and, of course, our time as students in Black Masque. Ill try to do the same with those who werent with us.
But that is history. Our story together is always present tense. We have become part of each others lives by listening, having fun together, and sharing the knowing laugh when old age offers its challenges.
©2009 by Joyce Kiefer. The photos are the property of the author. All rights reserved. This column first posted Dec. 7, 2009.
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