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Jottings contributor Donna Needham shares her thoughts about how favorite places can change over the years.

Whether you grew up in a city, small town or on a farm, there were always changes. Sometimes you noticed them, and sometimes you even embraced them.

As time went on, you might have reflected on how things had changed — remembering sledding down a street that now has too much traffic, or a park where you played ball that seems so much smaller now. These can be fond memories. But expecting the place where you grew up to still resemble the place you loved after being gone for 30 or 40 years is just plain nonsense.

I recently moved to Oregon and heard people say how crowded the Portland area has become. It doesn't seem all that crowded to me, but I've been here only two years. What do I know?

Well, I recently had the opportunity to go back to the place where I grew up, married and stayed for three more years before venturing off to live in states I had never even visited. After about 40 years of living here, there and everywhere, I decided I'd like to go back home for a visit. Now I know what Portlanders are talking about! And now I know why a lot of us "older folk" get crotchety.

I was delighted to be invited to my childhood friend's surprise 75th birthday party, and even more delighted to catch up with another friend I hadn't seen for 50 years. She and her husband, who I had never met, invited me to stay with them during my visit. Joan hadn't changed a bit; I even recognized her at the airport. And her husband, Ed, is charming!

Having thoroughly enjoyed the party, Joan and I went off the following day to revisit the city we had both enjoyed in our 20s. Ed dropped us off close to the church where I had been married. I had wanted to walk up the steps and walk down the aisle if there was nothing going on. But there had been new construction close to the church that seemed to make everything look different — and the church doors were locked.

This was my first disappointment, and I must confess it made me a bit crotchety. I couldn't even locate the lovely old building where our reception had been held.

So we got on the subway and headed into the city. At least the subway hadn't changed much — just a bit overcrowded for a Sunday afternoon. We walked along the street that I had traveled to and from work for a couple of years. It looked familiar at first, but of course the stores had different names on them, the restaurants were different and even the bank on the corner had a new name. I had expected some changes, though, and was pretty much enjoying myself — but gosh there were alot of people!

After enjoying a delightful lunch in one of those new restaurants and checking to make sure the building my husband and I had lived in was still in good shape, we ventured off to a favorite garden park.

Everything continued to be quite lovely, and after meeting up with Joan's husband, we went off to the restaurant we had been ecstatic to discover was still going strong. All three of us remembered that it served the best manicotti any of us had ever had. And since it was a beautiful day, we were looking forward to sitting outside.

But the outside area was crowded — and very windy. So we went inside, only to find that there was no manicotti on the menu, or anything else that even resembled the menu of the restaurant whose name was still being used "in vain." So Ed got on his phone and called our second choice — a rather small, sophisticated place with a piano in the center of the dining room. He asked if we could make a reservation — it would only take us about 10 minutes to walk down. And then we heard him say, "Yes, I guess I am a little confused."

As it turns out, the restaurant is now only a place for special receptions. But another restaurant downstairs was open, and we didn't need a reservation. So off we went for a surprisingly delicious meal of fish and chips amid loud 80s music, lots of families and tourists who had headed there on purpose.

Yes, things had changed. But enjoying Cheers! topped off my last night in Boston.

So this crotchety old gal can accept that change just continues to happen, and that we can't expect all of our favorite places of the past to stay the same. But the moral to this tale? Don't stay away for long; visit your favorite places often if you can, and with an open mind when you do.

Donna Needham is a member of the Jottings group at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.

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