Hood River, OR is quite a trendy place these days. It is considered one of the top kiteboarding destinations in the world, and the river is packed with kiting pros from all over the globe. This quaint town located in the Columbia River Gorge (considered one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon), about 60 miles east of Portland, has changed dramatically since I first started visiting as a child. It is no longer a sleepy little agricultural town, but is now a bustling location filled with brew pubs, wineries, fine dining, shopping and many of the things that appeal to tourists and visitors. Thankfully though, it has managed to retain much of its old town charm.
My memories of Hood River date back many years to when my grandmother and her husband owned and operated an apple orchard not far from town. They lived there for well over thirty years, and I have pleasant memories of this lovely place. From the summer vacation season when it was hot, dry and windy, to the snowy, winter holidays when it was bitter cold, but still windy; my family spent a lot of time in the little house on the edge of the apple orchard.
Sadly, when her husband died in the late 1980s, grandma had to sell her beloved home. She was heartbroken. I still remember being with her on the day she had to leave; there was no consoling her; she cried all the way to Seattle, where she went to live with my mom.
Grandma eventually returned to Hood River and lived in a little house in town until she passed away in January, 1992; one month before my daughter was born.
The orchard house has frequently been in my thoughts over the years, and I have often considered stopping by to meet the new owners. And that’s exactly what theTravelsketcher, our daughter, son-in-law and I did over the weekend. We easily found the house located on a quiet country road. I hesitated a bit before I hopped out of the car to approach the house, and I was quite nervous as I knocked on the door. I quickly apologized for the intrusion to the woman who answered, as I explained that my grandmother had lived here. She remembered my grandmother’s name after all these years, and welcomed me inside to see the changes they have made. I couldn’t have imagined a warmer welcome.
The house was in pretty bad condition when they purchased it from my grandmother 33 years ago; so they had their work cut out for them. But oh my, it is so beautiful now and still retains much of the original charm. They have done an amazing job.
I found this short essay I wrote over twenty five years ago about my childhood memories of this lovely home, and the time I spent there.
My Grandmother’s Kitchen
I awakened in the early morning to the smells of coffee brewing, bacon frying and something yummy baking in the oven, filling the house with tempting, welcoming aromas. I was always well rested on such mornings, after sleeping in a small alcove just off the dining room which my grandmother referred to as “the cubbyhole”. The little house located at the end of a long gravel drive, off a quiet country road next to an apple orchard provided a quiet respite from city life.
The scents drew me out of bed and beckoned me into the kitchen where my grandmother was busy tending to the basic needs of the household guests. As I sat down at the table next to an ancient wood stove, she would splash some water into a pan, toss in a handful of oats and set a dainty cream pitcher on the table before me.
Grandma cooked my oats, and most everything else on an old wood stove, a contraption that totally amazed me. She had an electric stove in her kitchen, but preferred her beloved wood stove. On this foreign object she prepared the most amazing creations; biscuits, pies, muffins, bacon, a multitude of savory dishes and, my oatmeal.
From my childish perspective, her efforts seemed almost like an afterthought, a crumbled piece of newspaper, a few sticks of wood and a match were all it took to create a fire hot enough to cook these wonderful creations; such are the thoughts of a child.
She served my oatmeal in a Wedgewood bowl that prompted thoughts of the English Countryside, which I had not seen at that point, but could easily imagine in my young mind. And, since I was not concerned about my health at that time, I was very generous with the cream and sugar.
Grandma was at the wood stove most of the morning cooking breakfast to order for her guests as they came into the kitchen. On the table were a variety of jams, jellies and her special apple butter, all made from ingredients from her garden and the orchard. She had a cellar full of items she grew and canned herself.
Lunch and dinner were served around a large, round table in the dining room situated next to ample windows that looked out onto the front porch and yard. She provided plenty of hearty fare popular at that time. Extended family often congregated at her house which made the atmosphere fun and festive. It was clear that her goal was to make sure we were comfortable and well fed.
As life becomes more complicated and hectic, I cling to the pleasant memories of my grandmother’s kitchen in the little house next to the apple orchard, and long for the simple things in life.
As it turns out, the owners had the wood stove until just a few years ago. I only wish I had stopped by sooner; it would have been very special to have kept it in the family; sadly, I missed the chance.
After spending time at the orchard house, we headed into town for lunch. I had forgotten that there is a beautiful view of Mt. Hood just around the bend from the house.
After lunch we wandered around town and then to the riverfront to watch the activities on the water, where we were nearly knocked over by the fierce wind.
On our drive back, we stopped at the base of the Bridge of the Gods to take in the view.
It was the first time since September that we have all been together in person. It was so good to give them hugs!
All in all, it was a lovely day out, made even more special by being with our kids for the first time in many months, and by seeing my grandmother’s home being tended to so lovingly by it’s new owners.
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Wishing you grand adventures,