Sunday, July 5, 2009


My family has a tradition regarding Independence day. Ever since my oldest was born, we have made a trip, just the three of us(four after my son was born) to the city of Newport, which is a fishing and tourist town on the northern Oregon coast. Sometimes others will join us, friends, parents, in laws, whoever but the trip is ours.

We set out early it is a hundred mile drive and we want a whole day. On the drive, like almost all our drives, we talk constantly. I find out all of the little details of my kids lives and friendships and interests, I tell stories, in this case all about why we celebrate on the fourth of July. We admire the view and talk about the sites. The trip over the coast range to Newport is very much worth admiring. I have said before that Oregon is the most beautiful place on earth and this is one of those drives that demonstrate that.

When we arrive it is activity time. The fireworks show over the bay is the premise for going and we don't miss that but the rest of the day is about adventures. Some new some old.
First we went to the Marine science center. Newport has a great commercial aquarium and we visit sometimes but the science center is just as fun, only asks donations and is somewhat educational. I also like that the "exhibits" all relate to work that the scientists are actually involved in. Much of this is about invasive species which is a very big deal in Oregon. We watched videos, played games watched storm patterns on a big interactive fiber optic globe. We looked at beautiful fish and other marine life. My kids drove a diving craft simulator. We touched urchins, starfish, oysters and anenomese. My son petted and eel. We looked at fossils of whale bones and teeth and learned about whale eating habits. The kids didn't want to leave and we went through more than once.

Then We visited the Yaquina Bay lighthouse, it is a restored structure that only operated as a lighthouse for a few years back in the 1870's. It is (other than electricity and such) a pretty faithful restoration. Each room has period furniture and appliances showing how the people of the time lived and cooked and worked. There is also a ghost story associated with the lighthouse. It is said that in the days when the lighthouse was abandoned and locked up a group of children somehow got the key and entered the house on a dare. They explored the house and left except for a young boy and girl who stayed behind the others. The girl told the boy she had lost her handkerchief and he should go out the front and lock up and she would come out through the kitchen. A few minutes after the boy left he heard screaming and went back in but found nothing but a bloody handkerchief. Since then people claim that they have seen the girls ghost haunting the lighthouse. I have no belief in ghosts, nor do my kids but we love ghost stories and playing pretend so we scoured that house searching for the ghost but no luck.

Next we went to play on the beach. Now for those who haven't been there the beaches of Northern Oregon are not like the beaches of Hawaii or Southern California or the Gulf. Our ocean is cold, not a little cold but painfully cold. My daughter and I couldn't care less. We were out crashing in the waves within five minutes. It wasn't a nice day either, cold wind, and mist were our companions out in the surf. It was glorious. One thing we do is walk out as far as we can and still have her chest out of the water, so that a it looks like the whole world is nothing but waves and sky, we wait for a wave to come in that would bury us and then try to run from it, usually failing completely. When she was very little we played this with her on my shoulders, now we play it hand in hand. I almost dread the day she is big enough to face the ocean without me.

My son on the other hand is no fan of cold water, he prefers exploring the rocks and combing the beach with my wife. They hunt agates, shells and fossils on the beach. After a while my daughter an I joined them in the search. We found some beauties. Several nice agates and two excellent fossils. I found a sand polished rock containing a fossilized mussel or other shellfish and my wife found one that had a fossil of some spiral shelled snail like thing in it. Over the next week or so my wife will be busily trying to identify them. Then followed some sand castle building and rock climing and seaweed fights and just general beach mayhem. The beach was mostly deserted. There was one family barbecuing near the rocks and a couple in the distance flying kites but otherwise just us.

After that we explored the historic bayfront a lot of this is just tourist stuff(which we like as much as any other tourists) but there are a number of wonderful old buildings mixed in with the docks and fisheries. Finally it was time for the fireworks. Sometimes we go out on the bay in a fishing boat to watch but this time we were on the dock. It took forever to get started, an hour later than usual and we considered leaving a few times but we stuck it out and it was worth it. Best show in years. If you have seen a fireworks show and I am sure everyone has you know how at the end they launch a lot of them in rapid series to give a big finally and get the oohs and ahhs. They did that three times. Of course my daughter who freaks out over anything that booms was behaving as if it were the end of the world, but even she peaked out to watch the spectacle. There was a fog out on the bay and the fireworks reflecting between that and the clouds made it look as if the sky were on fire.

Then we tucked our sleepy offspring into the car and had a quiet drive home, gently talking about our day until the kids went to sleep, then talking to each other in the easy way that married people talk when they already know what the other is going to say.

It was a great day, but at always there is a bit of sadness mixed in with the joy and pride as I see my children grow another year, becoming more independent and opinionated, I know the day will come when they are off at college and then married with their own family and traditions and I won't have a little boy to chase ghosts with or a little mermaid princess to dance in the waves with her daddy. My philosophy is all about reveling in the present, but sometimes the future sticks its ugly nose in. However every year brings new pleasures from parenting as well, new games, new conversations, new adventures, and come what may we are storing up memories that we can never lose.


uzza said...

MMMMMmmmmmmm. I grew up over there. Thanks for taking me back. :-))
Happy fourth.

Ryk said...

Hope you enjoyed your holiday as well uzza, glad to have brought a smile.

Tom said...

That is one of the best things I've read.

Ryk said...


Thank you very much.