It wasn’t until I was sitting at the airport in Portland awaiting the arrival of my friend Justin that I realized just how strange it was to be in Oregon on Christmas Eve. Justin has been living in a small college town a few hours drive from San Paolo, Brazil since we left the ‘Corps.’ That his family hadn’t seen him in a year, and probably wanted some alone time with him, was completely lost on me until that very moment. I’d just been so preoccupied with my own thoughts since all the craziness started and knew the last thing I wanted to do was hang around in Oakland for the holidays and sulk. So, there I was, sitting at PDX feeling the wrong side of guilty and questioning whether or not I should’ve been there. That all changed the moment ‘J-Hawk’ stepped off the tarmac and for the next 10 days, it was one laugh after another.
Oregon was more beautiful than I’d imagined, even during the middle of winter. It’s filled with trees, rivers and mountains and was far greener than anything I’d seen in California. It was also cold…very cold at times. I saw snow, stars and humming birds and ate my weight sweets and Mr. Hansen’s famed smoked salmon (already missing this). As an unexpected bonus, I was even able to meet up with some folks from my Peace Corps days!
The Hansen’s family roots run DEEP in their town. I don’t remember one outing where someone didn’t know someone, some way, some how… ‘That’s (so and so’s) cousin’s sister in law, who cut my hair from the ages of 4-7.’ A bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. It was fascinating to see, because I’ve never known anything like that. My family is mostly from Florida, but even we’ve moved around within the state, so there aren’t those long term connections I witnessed in Justin’s town.
I tried to tell them, but I really don’t believe it will ever fully be known how great, and timely, it was for me to spend Christmas and New Years with such a warm group of people. I am beyond appreciative and want to thank the Hansen family and their friends and relatives for helping me finish last year, and begin the this one, on a very high note. Oh, and Happy New Year, everyone!