Posted by: christinelaennec | April 15, 2011

Things about America I had forgotten

Sellwood Park in the evening, Portland, Oregon.

I’ve been back in Aberdeen for almost 48 hours, but it seems more like three.  It was very good to be back in Portland and see how well my mother is coping with her landslide.  I had a chance to say goodbye to the house, and to see my father and my sister, as well as other friends.  This was my fifth visit back to the States since I came to Aberdeen in 1992.  It’s amazing to think that when we moved here Ronald Reagan was still President and we had to go to the Computer Centre to use the amazing new technology of e-mail.  Every time I go back to Portland, I’m reassured that it seems essentially to be the same Portland I knew and loved when I was growing up.  I’m proud of its commitment to bike paths, good public transportation, music and the arts, and creativity generally. It is a very beautiful city.  I knew this as a child and now I think that I can say so with some objectivity.

Every time I go back to the States, I rediscover things that I’d forgotten about.  Here is a list of some of the things I rediscovered on this trip:

  • Trains whistling – such a beautiful sound
  • Tassled loafers
  • Men wearing shorts when not specifically engaged in sporting activity
  • The concept of brunch
  • English muffins (unknown in England)
  • Sassafrass and sarsaparilla
  • How open, talkative and funny Americans can be
  • Free refills!

There were other things that took me aback and were less welcome – the absolutely ginormous cars, the insidious presence of High Glucose Corn Syrup in so many foods.  But it was good to be in the land of wide-open spaces, beautiful vernacular architecture, tall trees and snowy mountains. It was also a treat to hear my native accent again – there’s something about the r’s of the Pacific Northwest that I really love, a crispness to the speech that was a pleasure to be surrounded by.

Thank you, Oregon!



  1. Welcome “home” Christine! Sounds like it was a good trip.

    • Thanks, Roobeedoo! Scotland is very much my home now and I’m happy to be back.

  2. Sarsaparilla and sassafrass in Oregon? I’ve never noticed and will have to be on the lookout.

    Sarah, sister in Oregon

    • You obviously need to go grocery shopping with Mom! She will show you all sorts of natural root beers and other amazing concoctions. I like sassafrass tea, and birch beer too, but didn’t see any of that on this trip.

  3. It has been 3 years since I was last back home to Aberdeen, and from talking to family and friends there has been quite a few changes. And I can’t believe the Council have closed down Bon Accord Baths.

    • Yes it’s a shame about the Bon Accord Baths. Such a beautiful Art Deco building. And have you seen what they are trying to do to Union Terrace Gardens?! (If you’re interested, see my post from May 2010 – Goodbye Union Terrace Gardens?)

  4. It sounds a lovely place you grew up in and you must miss it even though you now reside in beautiful Aberdeen.
    I know what you mean about huge cars, I was shocked about that the first time I went to the States, but I guess gazoline is cheap and after all its a big place with big roads!!
    Good to have you home. Hugs xx

    • Thanks so much, Heike. I thought of you and gave myself permission to mourn the chestnut tree. I don’t actively miss Oregon any more (I left there in 1983 to go to graduate school) but I think subconsciously I am always seeking out things that are like Oregon. Scotland is a good place for me for this reason!

  5. It’s good to have your feet on home soil from time to time. So glad that you had a safe journey, to and fro. Tomorrow, we travel to our spiritual home, Cornwall, where we spent 15 wonderful years. While I’m there, I know I’ll feel at home. Yet, when I return, I’ll be acutely aware of my roots.

    • I hope you’re having a great time in Cornwall, Martin. Another granite-ful place! It’s interesting how many people go somewhere that they feel such a strong pull to, and that seems to be their spiritual home.

  6. It was nice to have time, all be it short, to visit and meet your family. Your daughter is a gem. I have to remember to goggle her favorite boy band.

    • Yes it was a treat to meet up again. The Dafter is, in my opinion too, very wonderful. Thanks for making the time to come over to the house and visit, and thanks for reading my crazy Scottish blog!

  7. free refills is a beautiful thing … and so is brunch! 🙂

    • Agreed ajb! We can do brunch – and free refills – in our own home in Scotland. Free refills in a restaurant would be a step too far, I think.

  8. I lived in York, England during my junior year of college. When I returned home I was stunned by the size of the cars and that was before SUVs came into being!

    I visited Portland about 15 years ago. It really is lovely. Multnomah Falls were stunning as was Mount Hood.

    Hope you get settled back in quickly.

    • Hi Kelly! Isn’t it interesting how even a few months away makes familiar things strange? I’m glad you have happy memories of Portland. We didn’t have time to go to Mount Hood or Multnomah Falls, but they are two of my very favourite places of all time.
      Five days on and we are still settling in!

  9. I love your list. And the whole idea of rediscoveries. This made me happy today.

  10. Welcome home Christine! A lovely “like list” although I’m sad that I’ve no idea what sarsaparilla and sassafrass are! But English muffins …. my son’s staple breakfast! I’ve been to USA only the once, California, and there must be a lot of difference across such a massive country, but your list contains some of my highlights (especially the friendliness and interest of complete strangers). The “Denny’s” experience would have to be added to ours !!

    • Scruffybadger you’ve reminded me that Denny’s was THE ultra treat when we were children and our grandparents were looking after us. Yes, indeed. Sarsaparilla and sassafrass are roots that different “root beers” (non-alcoholic) used to be made from. In case you actually wanted to know!!

  11. Welcome home! Your list is certainly varied. The train whistles suddenly reminded me that my mum and I used to sing – in harmony! – a Slim Whitman song with the line ‘hear the train blow, love’. I had completely forgotten that – you’ve given me back a very precious memory.

    I’ve never tasted sarsparilla or sassafrass, but if they’re anything like root beer I won’t be sampling!

  12. Dear Linda,
    Oh I’m so glad if I tripped a little memory switch for you. Like Scruffybadger and Denny’s for me. I think that song is Slim Whitman’s version of “Down in the Valley” – a song my mother used to sing to me, and that I sang to my children in turn. Such a beautiful Appalachian mournful tune!
    You’re not the first Brit who’s told me they don’t like root beer. I love it, but I can see the point made by a British friend who said it tastes like toothpaste.

  13. Oh my, talk about ginormous cars and wide-open spaces. We moved to (the suburbs) Toronto from the quaint and cosy Cotswolds and it was a shock that I still haven’t recovered from. 😦 Five lane roads everywhere and every shop is basically a warehouse. But I’m learning to look for the beauty that is around. I’m happy to hear you enjoyed you time back at home. Welcome back.

    • Dear Luciana,
      I can only imagine what a change that would be! But to judge from your blog, you are very good at finding the beauty that is around. Thanks for your welcome back!

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