A year living with Lee and Dante

What makes moving so heartbreaking is knowing things will never be the same. I will always remember this special year that I lived with Lee & Dante. Thanksgiving, going to the coast, all the ice cream runs, the hikes, Airport Park, cutting our own Christmas tree, hearing stories about her girl scouts, learning how to cook (sorta), doing yardwork, and falling in love with Smokey and Dante. Oh, I will miss Dante for the rest of my life. Dante, the big galumping dog just full of love. My footwarmer, my cuddledog, my garbage disposal. As the days pass and I can count how many days I have left with Lee and Dante on one hand, I find it harder and harder to imagine saying goodbye. It was a year unlike any other in my life, full of travel, excitement and learning how to be an adult.

20131126_004707It was the year I made connections in the Oregon wine industry, and all over McMinnville, really. I learned, finally, what it was like to be part of a small community. I know the guys from the bank, the shipping store and the best restaurant in town. I know the man who runs the tea bar where I work online all the time. I know people from YCAP and MEDP from working and volunteering in the community. I know the happy hour schedules and the best places to sit at the local coffee shop. You don’t get that in a city. Although I’m pretty sure I’ll be a city girl forever, I wouldn’t trade my 4.5 years in McMinnville for anything. It wasn’t just Linfield, but the life I had the chance to live afterwards, and the connections I made in that one year I lived with Lee.

20131130_190324Lee has done more than I imagined possible in a lifetime, and she still has a ways to go! She was a girl scout leader, ski instructor, doctors assistant, has owned a pet store, climbed mountains (literally) and is now the Executive Director of YCAP. She’s planning on retiring in about a year and visiting her old students (she has been a host mom to international students a number of years). That task alone would have her traveling through Central America, Japan and the Philippines–at least.

Lee grew up in a house in the countryside. I heard her talk about her old room, but it was different seeing it. Big open windows made up 2 out of the 4 walls in her room, with no curtains while she was growing up since they weren’t needed. She still sleeps in her childhood room sometimes! That’s unthinkable to me. We moved an average of once every two years until I was 10. We moved again since I came to Oregon, so the place I go “home” to changed once more. In fact, McMinnville may be the place I’ve sincerely called home for the longest time in my life.

A lot of Lee’s stories made me strangely nostalgic for a life I never had. When her family went on road trips, her dad would ask the kids, alternately, which way to go at every crossroads. Lee’s grandpa owned a dairy farm, which she showed me on the way to a wildflower hike. Her grandfather raised cows that produced high-fat milk to make butter. Whenever Lee and her brothers went to the creamery, the workers would fish out cheese curds from the milk for them to snack on. When Lee had to get milk, she scooped it out of a vat and had to try and get the ladle as deep as it would go so she wouldn’t scoop out all cream. She learned to drive on a logging road that her dad managed. She goes river running, can cook amazing food and has led wilderness survival camps. Lee cuts her own Christmas trees down in Southern Oregon and she always gets a Noble Fir instead of the typical Douglas Fir. Her life is amazing, and it’s so different from anything I’ve ever seen. I fell in love with the hikes we went on together. She learned to swim in a river, and told me about a swimming hole she used when she was younger that sounds magical. It’s such a contrast with my childhood, full of malls, hotels and pools. I wouldn’t trade my childhood, but I want to raise my kids in Oregon, swimming in rivers and hiking the forests.

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