Tag Archives: Family

Sand Island: Swept Away By Summer Love

This past week I took my summer vacation. It was absolutely wonderful. It started off by spending some quality time down on the Willamette River by myself on the boat, and with a friend out on the river. There is no way I have time to detail all of the adventures that ensued that weekend, but basically it consisted of sleeping on the family boat–a Tolman Skiff, cruising the Willamette with a good friend, being boarded by the Coast Guard (yes I’m aware of how that sounds), seeing some horses running and swimming on Sauvie Island, enjoying Jimmy Johns on the deck of the boat, swimming off Kelly Point, and alas spending hours talking to a boy. A southern boy–a Texan more specifically. More on that small (read huge) detail later.

My brother and his wife flew in from NYC eventually and we crammed in some Portland musts including dinner with grandpa, a trip to Powell’s Books, and of course, our family breakfast at Bertie Lou’s Cafe in Sellwood. Breakfast filled with eggs, home fries, bacon, and of course biscuits and gravy marked the beginning of our annual voyage to Sand Island. I’ll probably be harassed if not killed by my family and our extended non-related relatives for divulging the existence of said island, but the fact is, there is no place quite like it, and it must be celebrated.

Looking south on Sand Island State Marine Park

Sand Island is located on the Columbia River right across from the small town of St. Helens, Oregon. One of the state’s beautiful marine parks, it was created to serve as a sand bar to protect the riverfront town from the wake of passing freighters. Over the years, tall cottonwood trees and an unknown number of wild animals such as racoons and deer have made this small oasis home. The Columbia River surrounding the island (as we refer to it) gives the much needed sanctuary from the hot summer sun, and has provided years of memories filled with swimming, sailing, and amazing river sunsets. My family has gone camping on the island every year of my life. We spend 51 weeks waiting to be reunited with its beauty–with daydreams of the sand between our to toes, and the cool evening breeze rocking the hammock as we gaze at the stars. Surely there could be no better place in the great northwest to spend one’s summer.

Looking north on Sand Island State Marine Park

Growing up, our family would camp anywhere from a weekend to several weeks on the island. No electricity, no running water, and no plumbing. Our non-relative relatives also camped with us. They had 5 kids. One couldn’t possibly fathom the amount of stuff they would cart across the river, then again, there were 5 kids. The oldest sibling was a boy my brother’s age, to this day they are still best friends. The second of the five was a girl–my best friend and kindred spirit–Babette.

1993

The final three siblings were all boys, so I really lucked out with Babette. The 7 of us were wild on the island. Swimsuits were the only clothing item worn from dawn to dusk. It was common to not even bring shoes to the island. Most days, the 7 of us could be found down at the beach creating the most elaborate mud pit you’ve ever seen. After all, it needed to fit all of us.

From left to right: Michael, Babette, Stephen, Sammy, Jeremiah, Me, Christopher

Luckily our parents documented these events. It would take hours of swimming and pretending to be mermaids (for Babette and I at least) to wash the evidence of earlier mud fights away. Our parents would force us to bathe in the river, which as we became older, was quite the tradition. My mother always said that there was “nothing sexier than a woman keeping up her appearance while camping.” So Babette and I would (and still do) suds up in our suits and wash our hair as the sun set over the hills.

Several summers, we made treasure maps and wrote notes claiming the island as our own, and sealed them in empty bottles. After adding several layers of duct tape, we would fasten a rope to the bottle and then swim it out to the old wooden pilings off the north end of the island.

The north end of Sand Island, standing on top of the dunes

Once used in the logging industry, lthe decaying logs now jet out of the water like totem poles. Hoisting each other up onto the wooden crossbeam, we would tie the rope off and hide the bottle inside of the metal cables binding the logs. The bottle never did make it until the following summer as we had hoped, but we all liked to imagine that some other kids found it and followed our treasure map to nothing–our punishment to them for thinking it was acceptable for them to spend time on our island. Who did they think they were anyway?!

When night fell more adventures ensued. Capture the flag would span across the entire island, with our little shadows darting around trees and the sand dunes, scaring each other and then shrieking with shear terror/joy. Our dad’s would tell ghost stories around the campfire about graveyard rats, and about “Herman,” the scary man who lived below the glorified outhouse. Strange as it sounds (because how on earth did he live under the outhouse?) we believed that one for years.

When Babette and I had enough with the boys, and were tired of waiting for our turn with the BB guns, we would spend hours painting rocks and driftwood, trying our best to capture the beauty of the island.

Nighttime on the river, circa 1998

This past week we sat together at the picnic table once again, listening to music, drinking iced coffee from the cooler, arguing and laughing over whose depiction was better. We laughed about how we used to argue about who’s tent was cozier, and whether or not straight hair was better than curly. These are the moments that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

I look forward to many more summers to come on Sand Island. Laughing, swimming, and being with the closest of friends and family.

;

Below are some more photos of the journey to the island.

Docked at the Willamette Sailing Club

Behind Ross Island, stopping for a dip and some relaxing in the sun

It really is a must to by smutty celebrity magazines while on vacation…

Lusting after the floating homes near Sellwood

On our way to the island, under all the Portland bridges, including the St. John’s Bridge

Close to the island at last!!!!
Warrior Rock Light, Sauvie Island, Oregon

Sand Island. In all of its glory

Sunrise on the island

Sleeping on the hammock might be the best part

It’s an island, so we obviously have to be well prepared…

And by being prepared I obviously mean being well-stocked with coffee options

Painting driftwood

Sailing at sunset

Good Men Are Needed. Period.

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The voice of a 7 year old boy.

Bills aka Looming Cloud of Annoyance

For several months now I have been ruminating over moving back in with my parents. This has been one of those “mylifehascompletelychangedandnowIneedtofindadirection” things. This started when I was attempting to brainstorm with friends what amazing opportunity I should pursue. Buy a boat, move to another country, move across the country, etc. All of the things that “older” people tell me they would have/should have done, if they knew then what they know now. You know, that conversation that goes something like this: “You’re free now. You just got out of a shitty relationship and there is nothing to hold you back from doing what you want! If I were you, I would just travel and do lots of crazy stuff. “And then they ask “What’s stopping you?” And I say “Well, I guess I have these bills to pay, and my student loans you know.” And then I start to think about how I had done all of things that society told me I was supposed to do i.e. go to college, get married, go to graduate school, get a nice paying job, think about having some babies, buy a newer car, decorate a beautiful home. Check, Check, Check. And now I’ve done those things, but now I look at where I am and I’m still starved for adventure, love, and freedom.

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“What would you do if you won a billion dollars?”

“I’d pay off my debt and loans, travel, and buy a place in Europe, and make art.”

“What would you do if you won a million dollars?”

“I’d pay off my debt and loans, and travel to Europe, and make art for a couple months.”

“What would you do if you won 10,000 dollars?”

“I’d pay off my debt, and buy some Starbucks.”

And so I am faced with the question of moving in with my parents, rent free. If I did, I could pay off all of my debt in 3 years, 2 months, and 9 days (or 38.2 months, or 166.5 weeks, or 1,165.5 days). I would be 31 years old.

There’s only one thing to do.

Obviously go to New York for a week and then decide.

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Conjunction Junction, What’s Your Dysfunction?

“The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well.” -Alfred Adler

I recall a story my father would tell to some boyfriends over the years. It was a story of my “cute” dysfunction as a child. Well really it was our family’s dysfunction, but I was the one who shed some light on the subject (pun intended).

Per our family history, when I was around 4 or 5 years old, my family (consisting of my parents and my older brother) went to my uncle and aunt’s house for the evening to visit and have dinner. My older brother was the type of child that regularly created mischief and noise, while I was quite the “perfect” little girl (so I’ve been told), being able to entertain myself quietly and without getting into trouble in these types of social situations. However, at some point in the evening, it was noticed that I had been in the kitchen unaccompanied for quite some time. The fact that this was noted as unusual for a child who is able to entertain themselves safely means it was probably quite a long time I was gone before they noticed.

And so my dad enters the kitchen to find me standing at the refrigerator opening and closing the door, over, and over again. Apparently I look up and state quite excitedly “Look! There’s a light in there!” At which time my dad realizes that I have grown up to believe that looking into a dark refrigerator (due to a broken bulb) is completely normal. I’d like to say that my family went and bought a new refrigerator bulb at that point, but I’m sure this story was told time and time again when my various friends and boyfriends came over during the years because they asked why we didn’t have a light in our fridge…

That being said, I walked into my parent’s house this past weekend and was immediately met with a “normal” image from my childhood.

Apparently it’s not normal to have sails spread out all over the living room either. That is, unless you’re a family full of sailors.

“I am what I am, and that’s all that I am.” –Popeye the Sailor Man

Adventure is in My Blood

If you ask me what my life might look like a year from now, I would have absolutely no idea what to say. Everyday I wake up, and I think “I wonder if something life changing is going to happen today.”

The problem with this thought is that it’s never just one event that changes your life forever. It’s a series of things that happen very slowly–and sometimes painfully–that get you to where you are. Then we stop and think “how on earth did I get to this place?” What kind of life story do I want? I can’t tell you the details like most people might be able to. I have no idea what I should be working towards. Some have it down to a mental check list; spouse, pet, nice house, 2.5 children, job that is bearable, etc. = Nice happy love story with a happy ending.

Unfortunately my list doesn’t look like this. Actually, I don’t know where my list went. I’m pretty sure a couple things were checked off, then scratched off, others erased, and only a few starred. However, on the bottom of the page–artfully depicted bien sûr–was a little sail boat.

I imagine that one creates their life list based on a combination of factors such as family values, childhood experiences, and societal pressures. I wonder though, how much genetics plays part in the desires of the heart. My grandma Mary, pictured above, was bound for adventure. True, she had some very trying life experiences, and perhaps some interesting ways of dealing with them, but I like to believe that she simply followed the wind. Living in Israel, working as a flight attendant, sailing, traveling the states in a motor home, and enjoying the beauty of meeting different people everywhere.

Adventure is in my blood. I have no agenda, no check list, no pressing life goals. Just a small little drawing of a sailboat. Time to follow the wind.