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Sojourning in Houston - and returning

In order for my husband to work on a doctorate from Rice University, our family of four moved from Portland to Houston. We hired a piano mover to load the grand piano into the U-Haul truck with our other belongings. My dad and my husband took turns driving to Houston.

Another piano mover moved the grand piano to an upstairs apartment, where we stayed for a month before moving into our house. When we got possession of our house, my mom flew from Portland to Houston with our two daughters. The younger one, who was one year old, took her first steps in the Houston airport.

Our first house in Houston was a one-level three-bedroom ranch style home. The living room was open to the dining room. The unique thing was that there was a mural on the dining room wall which was hand painted in a surrealistic style. On the outside of the house, across the entire front were mature azaleas. When in bloom, they were a mass of brilliant fuchsia petals. One winter there was snow and ice, which looked picturesque on the palm trees and cacti.

We moved to a larger colonial-style house with four bedrooms and two and a half baths. It was white with a bright blue front door. At Christmastime we hung a large, snowy wreath upon it. I loved the house because of the four bay windows. My husband liked it because of the beautiful redbud tree in the front yard. In the subtropical climate, the red-flowering amaryllis plants growing along the detached garage entered their majestic glory annually. Also, the elephant ears did their animal counterparts proud.

When the house was new it had been a model home. It had a sunken living room. The higher level dining room became a stage for our grand piano. Its wall had pillars with mirrors in between. All of the doors were paneled with porcelain door knobs and brass fittings. When we sold the house, the new owners moved in with brand new furniture, and the place did look like a model home again.

Memories of living in that location included a nearby outdoor mall called Westbury Square. The “mom and pop” shop owners were candle makers, glass blowers, pottery makers and other craftsmen. It was a fun place to shop and experience. Unfortunately, the mall suffered a decline and disappeared, but the memory lingers on.

When I first moved back to Portland, I took a sentimental journey to see the houses where I had lived in past years. The first house on the tour was the small bungalow on Tillamook Street. The house looked neat and well cared for with a good paint job. The cabriole-inspired supports to the porch railing looked intact.

Next I went to view the craftsman house on 38th. What a disappointing shock! The wooden pillars at the front porch were replaced with wrought iron, which were totally incongruous with that style of architecture.

Then I went on to the little bungalow where my husband and I lived when we were first married. It was sad to see that owners had trash around the house and it needed paint. Truly, one only has control over a place while one owns it.

I drove up the hill to the Alameda Ridge. It was a pleasant surprise to see that our beloved house was going through a second metamorphosis. It was being turned back into a colonial. The people who bought the house from my parents spent much money changing it into a contemporary one. These extensive renovations were written up in a June issue of “Sunset” magazine.

One of the shocking things the new owners did was to paint all of the beautiful Philippine mahogany paneling in the living room cobalt blue. Perhaps the wood was restored in the more recent changes. The Dutch Colonial can once more be the charming home it was originally intended to be for gracious living.

So now I have returned to my roots in the Portland area, and am now planting them solidly in the favorable soil of Lake Oswego. May our charming village always retain its small town atmosphere and appeal!

Rosalie Justen is a member of the Jottings Club of the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center.



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  • 1 Oct 2014

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