When I was eight years old, smack in the middle of the third grade, my family moved from Eagle Rock, CA (just next door to Pasadena) to Portland, OR. My parents decided to move in the middle of the year in part because my mom read somewhere that kids who transition into new schools in the middle of the year have an easier time of it than kids who show up in the fall. I’m not sure if that logic holds true, but I will admit that that second half of third grade and all of fourth grade were, hands down, the best years of my elementary school experience. For the first time in my life I had wonderful best friends and was not labeled a freak simply because I was a voracious reader. Those were good days. But actually, not what today’s story is about.
We left LA on March 1st, 1988 and drove north in our tan 1986 Subaru station wagon, the first new car my parents had ever purchased. I sat behind the driver, because my dad claimed I kicked the seat less than my sister. Raina and I drew an imaginary line down the back bench to delineate our territory and screamed in frustration anytime we felt the other sister had moved into our turf.
We spent the night in a motel about eight hours north of Los Angeles, someplace off of I-5. I think it was someplace up in the mountains, because I remember it being cool in the March morning. I walked out of the motel room to find my dad cleaning the windows of the car. He wasn’t just washing the windshield, but was doing a thorough job of the windows, both inside and out. When I asked him why he was doing that, he said, “Because we are going to be driving through beautiful territory today, and I want you and Raina to be able to see it.”
All day, as we drove towards Portland, I made a point of looking out, to see what we had passed, knowing that if my dad had gone to the trouble of cleaning the windows, there had to be something beautiful out there. That was the first time I ever really paid attention to the beauty in the world. It certainly wasn’t the last.