Sunday, November 23, 2014

On the road to San Jose again

I spent yesterday traveling down the coast of Oregon to California for Thanksgiving. It's a two-day journey, which I made extra long stopping to take pictures and do some Christmas shopping. I will let my photos tell the story this week. (All photos copyright Sue Fagalde Lick 2014)

Devil's Churn at Cape Perpetua

Veterans' memorial north of North Bend

Coast view south of Pt. Orford

Gold Beach bridge from the north

Playground at park in Crescent City

The sun nears the horizon on the Redwood Highway north of Eureka, CA

Monday, November 17, 2014

I am the Weeping Keeper of Past Lives

It had been a beautiful Sunday, yet there I sat sobbing over old photos as the first "Sex and the City" movie played in the background. Certain parts of the movie always get to me--when Charlotte tells Carrie she's pregnant, when Miranda and Steve reunite on the Brooklyn Bridge, when Carrie and Big get back together--but it wasn't just that. It was all the lives piled up on the card table.

Somehow, having survived the deaths of my husband, his parents and his younger brother, I have become the keeper of the archives, boxes and boxes of photographs, slides, and memorabilia. The more I sell or give away, the more there seems to be. Like me, Fred's dad never went anywhere without a camera. I carefully compiled the first 20 years or so of our marriage into albums, but I have my own boxes of prints and slides, including the black and white pictures I processed in my darkroom-happy years. There are pictures from life with my first husband. It was a life with so many promises never fulfilled. There are my grandparents, my parents, aunts, uncles and cousins, so many of them gone. I miss them all, and I weep. There's the house we used to live in on Safari Drive. I weep.

There are the Lick photos, none of them properly stored, yet many surviving almost a century. It's not the family I grew up with. I never met Fred's grandparents. I never saw his mom and dad as young people or Fred and his brothers as little boys, yet here they are in countless photos. As Fred's Alzheimer's progressed and he forgot his history, I remembered it for him. Now that he's gone, I look at that cute little boy with glasses and weep. I look his parents and weep. I look at pictures of Fred's children, my stepchildren, as babies with their mom, and I weep. Some days I can't believe I ever was part of this family, and yet it's part of me. As I sort, I keep a few things for myself and I throw out the things that I don't think will interest anyone anymore, but I keep sending boxes of pictures to Fred's kids and his brother. It's all paper, somebody's click of the camera. Does anybody care? In the boxes from the storage locker, I also found love letters from Fred's dad to his mom, the telegraph he received when he got his job at Boeing, and the one sent to Fred's grandparents when he was born.These are precious, but who should have them? Surely not me.

There are other pictures that hurt because they emphasize the big chunk of Fred's life when he was married to someone else. Wedding. Christmas. Babies. Crew-cut clean-shaven pix of Fred graduating from college, posing with his wife and his parents. He looks so different without his beard, yet I know that mouth, those eyes. I was 13 years old that year. I didn't know Fred the way he looked then, and if I did, we could not have been lovers, but I still ache for him, for his smile, for his touch, his warmth.

Many of the pictures were taken on the countless cruises Fred's parents took. Alaska, Panama, the Bahamas, Hawaii. While I don't want to take a cruise, I miss traveling with my husband, and I wonder if I'll ever get to those places on my unwritten bucket list. Do I want to go alone?

I find a framed 8 x 10 photo of a big black dog. I never met that dog, which belonged to my late brother-in-law, but I love dogs and plan to put this one on my wall because it makes me smile. There are 78 rpm records by artists I never heard of, and I have all the camera gear, valuable in its time, now nearly worthless because it isn't digital. I don't know what to do with these.

What will happen to all those pictures we've been taking in recent years, storing on our hard drives and tiny memory cards? Will they last long enough for descendants three or four generations down to spend an afternoon studying them, thinking about the people and places they depict and weeping while the E channel airs "Sex and the City" yet again? I worry that all of our memories will disappear, just like the stories I stored on floppy disks. Do we just put them on Facebook and then forget them?

I ended my cryfest with a glass of Portuguese red wine a friend brought to Nye Beach Writers Saturday night. That's my heritage, and I could fill a room with those photos, too. I'll probably cry. Cheers.

What about you? Do you have boxes of ancient photos? What do you do with them when the older generation is gone? Please share your stories.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Tragedy on Newport's Yaquina Bridge

Something awful happened in my little town of Newport, Oregon a week ago today. A woman threw her six-year-old son off the Yaquina Bay Bridge. It’s 130 feet high, and the water is so cold no one can survive in it for more than few minutes. The mother, Jillian McCabe called 911 herself, telling the dispatcher, “I just threw my son off the bridge.”

That was about 6:30 p.m. Emergency crews searched all around. They closed the bridge to traffic. About 10:30, a man who lives about a mile up the bay, found the boy’s body. I know the man, one of the sweetest guys ever. He will never be the same, nor will the others who helped bring little London McCabe out of the water.

The mother is in jail with $1 million bail, facing murder charges. The whole community has been grieving as the story came out. London was severely autistic; he screamed all the time. Meanwhile his dad was disabled with multiple sclerosis. The mom had posted pleas online asking for financial help and had gotten some. There were reports that she was suffering from mental problems herself. But nobody thought this would happen. According to the latest news reports, she may not be well enough to stand trial. It’s all unbearably sad for her and the whole family.

A heartbroken community decorated the bridge with balloons, flowers and stuffed animals. Workers took the contributions off the bridge for safety reasons and created memorials at both sides of the road on the south end of the bridge, memorials to which people keep adding. There have been candlelight vigils, prayers and countless news reports. Teachers and mental health workers have been working to reassure worried children that they are safe, that this won’t happen to them. Public officials are talking about the need for early intervention to help troubled families. I don't know what could have stopped this from happening, but we all feel like somebody should have done something.

Those who have lived here a while recall the last time something similar happened, when Christian Longo murdered his family in 2001. Two of his children were found in the water near Alsea Bay, outside Waldport. The other child and his wife were located in the water of Yaquina Bay very near where London’s body turned up. Longo is on death row now, found guilty of murder.

When we drive across the bridge now, we slow our cars. We look at the water, think about what it would feel like to fall, wonder if London felt anything on the way down, if he was scared, if he felt the cold water, hoping he just felt like he was flying and it was the best time he ever had.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Making that calculator sing at the church bazaar

My fingers flew over the calculator keys as customers lined up at the cashiers’ table with shopping baskets full of Christmas ornaments, cookies, used books, ribbons, fabric, jewelry, bowls, candles, plants and more. Compared to my recent experience at last week’s garage sale, where I was dealing in such small numbers I didn’t need a calculator, this was high finance.

This was the annual holiday bazaar at Newport, Oregon's Sacred Heart Church, ironically scheduled on Nov. 1. On Halloween I was decorating a Christmas tree at the entrance to the hall, standing on a stepstool putting up lights and pine boughs and crawling on the floor trying to figure out how to plug in the lights, two trees, an animated Santa Claus and a boom box without blowing up the church. Meanwhile the tide of people bringing in cookies, pies, muffins and other baked goods never stopped. 

Other volunteers transformed the main hall into a wonderland of red, green and gold and turned classrooms into the Book Nook, Country Store, and Odds and Ends Room. Tables filled up with jewelry, holiday decorations, pictures, craft supplies, cookies and more, more, more.

This is our parish’s big fundraiser, and it is big. Volunteers spend months collecting and pricing merchandise and gathering donations for the raffle and silent auction. Two days before the bazaar, the religious pictures in the hall come down, replaced by quilts, paintings and signs urging people to buy more raffle tickets.

On Saturday, the kitchen area became a restaurant, where bazaar-goers noshed on soup, Chinese food, and pies, pies, pies (140!), served by parishioners turned waiters and waitresses. People started arriving before the doors opened at 9:00. By 10, the church parking lots were full, and cars lined the streets. It was loud, crowded and wonderful.

I was subbing for my friend Pat, who was sick. I had only planned to donate books and homemade loaves of pumpkin and banana bread, but I wound up staying to do a lot more. I don’t want to say thank you for getting sick—Pat, please get well ASAP—but I’m glad I got to do it.

I didn’t win the raffle, but I came home with two bags of treasures, along with a piece of apple pie and a warm heart.

Yesterday (Sunday), the bazaar reopened after the Masses, with all the leftovers on sale for half price. Whatever’s left will be donated to charity or saved for next year’s bazaar. When I return to church for choir practice on Tuesday night, the religious pictures will be back on the walls, and the tables back in their usual places, the warm feeling of family and friendship will remain.

I worked my way through college clerking at retail stores, selling sheet music, furniture, uniforms and housewares. Forty years later, the old skills still kick back in. If this writer gig doesn’t work out, I can always fall back into retail, at least once a year.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Garage sale exposes stuff you can’t even give away

You know what happens when you hold a garage sale? All those personal items that you have hidden away because you didn’t like them or they weren’t quite good enough to keep get exposed to light and inspected by strangers who often decide they’re not worth 50 cents. In some cases, they don’t even want them for free. Also, the people who gave you that “helpful hints” book you have placed on a card table with a $1 sticker or the goofy Christmas ornament on the freebie table show up and see that you decided their gift was not worth keeping.

A garage sale is a lot of work for a little money, but you do get to meet a lot of nice people, including neighbors you never actually spoke to before and friends you didn’t know spent their weekends buying other people’s junk.

It’s funny what people will and won’t buy. At the garage sale I held last Friday and Saturday in my actual garage, my first two customers were a couple of women who showed up early and ready to spend money. They got most excited about the bookshelf boards rescued from the great flood of 2013 in my den and bought them for $1 apiece. An outdoorsy-looking man who came a while later noticed a tall skinny log that has probably been in the garage since before we bought the house. It wasn’t even for sale; it was just holding up a rug. “How much you want for that?” he asked. That? He took it away for $2; he plans to make a table out of it. Or a sculpture. Or something. He was also interested in the big old clock on my wall, which was not for sale.

Actually several of the men were interested in things that weren’t for sale, tools and such that were hanging on the walls. Nope, sorry, mine.

Clocks did well. I quickly sold the two antique clocks that have passed through the Lick family and ended up here. It seems most people don’t share my aversion to chimes and bongs. The bike, the baby gate, and most of the wine bottle openers and corks went. I sold some books and CDs but not nearly as many as I expected to. I sold three out of four stereo components. But the records, TV, FAX machines, stereo speakers (giant) and typewriter did not sell. Nor did the bat house, and the croquet set, although they engendered much conversation. Seems what’s old and useless to me is old and useless to everybody else, too.

Of course, the hurricane didn’t help. Okay, it wasn’t a hurricane, but it rained in buckets and barrels, and the wind, with 60 mph gusts, did not help. Tree branches littered the roads, my spa cover sailed across the yard again, and the cover on my compost bin left the property altogether. Windy. Nobody came Saturday afternoon, but I kept the store open, moving the merchandise back as the rain and wind came in. I wrote a poem, sorted through old magazines, played my guitar, played my recorders and danced to old music on the boom box. I sat with a heater at my feet to keep warm and gazed out at the waterfall cascading from the defective gutter over the entrance to the garage.

At 4:00, I closed the garage door, took down what was left of my signs and started boxing up the remaining merchandise to donate to whoever will take them, with a few things destined for the dump. If anybody wants records from the ‘40s, ‘50s, and early ‘60s, and a lot of other cool stuff, they’re in my garage. But they’re not going to stay there for long.  I’m going back to anonymously donating my stuff to charities, preferably those that will take them out of town so I don’t ever have to see them again.

Thanks to Pat and Bill, who provided great help and moral support in the early stages of the garage sale. Also, thanks to the world’s greatest dog-sitter, Jo Byriel, who came to shop and ended up taking Annie for a nice long walk.