Saturday, November 20, 2010

Small World

The boys and I took advantage of a day off on Veteran's Day to go visit Shaun's Grandma Laurel at Friendsview Manor in Newberg. We always love to spend time with Grandma Laurel, because she is a great lady and a kick in the pants to boot.

Had we been able to visit a day earlier, we could have heard one of the Manor's residents give a holiday-related talk that I was sad to miss.

When Shaun's Grandpa Chick was alive and the subject of WWII came up, I mentioned that my Grandma Toni and her sister (we called her Aunt Chequela) had been in an internment camp in the Philippines. He told me that there was a woman at the Manor who had been in one of the camps as a girl.

I always wondered if they could have been at the same camp, but I never followed up on it. It wasn't until last year, when Shaun and I were watching a documentary made by a George Fox student about WWII vets living at Friendsview, that I got my answer.

The woman's name was Pat Landis, and in the film she talked about being in the camp with her family. She said that the calm, united front her parents presented, along with their faith in God, ensured that she and her brothers always felt safe.

The film featured several people, so I didn't get to hear as much from Pat as I would have liked. When she described the twice-a-day roll call procedure I got excited; the camp roll call figures prominently in one of my family's (very few) stories. It still wasn't enough, though, to make a determination.

Pat never mentioned being scared, even when U.S. forces flew overhead one morning just as they were about to assemble for roll call. Paratroopers dropped in and a massive raid was launched. With the help of Philippine guerrillas, the 11th Airborne successfully liberated those in the camp from their Japanese captors. Later an unverified story went around that the Japanese guards had intended to retreat and abandon the camp that morning; the prisoners were to be shot as they stood in line for roll call.

Well, now. That was my grandma's story. In fact, one of the soldiers in on the rescue effort ended up becoming known to me as Uncle Bill. His wedding to Aunt Chequela was mentioned in Life magazine, newsworthy because it was the first marriage of an internee to a liberator. Or so I'm told.

Grandma Toni and Aunt Chequela never talked to us about their time in the camp, which of course I found exasperating as a kid. To add insult to injury, if they did want to talk amongst themselves about it, they did so in the Spanish they'd learned from their mother. None of their children were allowed to learn Spanish; it was reserved for use as their own private language.

So I'm so thankful to have a recording (thanks, Grandma Laurel!) of the talk that Pat Landis gave about her time at the camp. I can't wait to learn more. I think it worked out best to miss hearing it in person, though, because the boys and I filled our time quite nicely eating lunch in the dining room with Grandma Laurel, hanging out for a while in her apartment, and then getting the grand tour of the Manor.

While the patchwork view of the residents' personal garden plots was beautiful from the top floor, we had the most fun in the basement. As soon as we stepped off the elevator, we smelled popcorn. But we had some sights to see before snack time. First we stopped by the second-hand/consignment space that Grandma Laurel works in. A woman after my own heart. Nels went to town pedaling a vintage Schwinn stationary bike. That thing was a hipster's dream. It wasn't cheap, either.

Next we checked out the storage spaces. They were framed by boards and had chicken-wire walls, and it was rather poignant to walk by and see everyone's things. It made me think about my own things and the way I live now and the way I might live one day.

Then we were on to the gym, where a class was in progress. There were five or six folks cheerfully moving (I'm not really sure what else to call was a little too slow to be called aerobics) and they didn't mind in the least when we walked around for a look. We let the boys check out the resistance machines, took a gander at the therapy pool, and then walked over to an area with some games and a ping-pong table.

The boys quickly became engrossed in a puzzle, which gave me the opportunity to observe more of the class. They did a few balance challenges and then had free time. The instructor (I must note that she was an amazing lady, and very fit) suggested a game of ping-pong. The residents were reluctant at first, but the play soon became so spirited and entertaining that I felt I had been dropped into a shoot for a third Cocoon sequel.

Finally we were on to the popcorn, the smell of which had permeated our basement adventures up to this point. The exercise/rec room opened up into a lobby, and off of that was a hallway that had a distinctly more institutional feel than the rest of the Manor.

"That's where the people live who need more help."

A popcorn machine stood in the corner of the lobby; a big one, like you might see at Target or an ice cream parlour. A stack of small red-and-white striped bags rested on the table beside it, giving the whole thing a very festive air.

"Let's see if I remember the combination," said Laurel, reaching for a small black padlock that held the two glass doors closed. Hmm. Locked-up popcorn seems less fun.

"They keep it locked?" I asked.

Grandma Laurel looked around the lobby and then glanced down the hall to make sure no one was there.

"Well, there's this lady...and she doesn't really need any more to eat..."

"They keep the popcorn locked up from a resident?"

She nodded, got the lock open, and began scooping popcorn into the little bags.

"Just so you know," I said, "you're probably going to read about this on my blog."

And then we both laughed our heads off.

1 comment:

Annie Nannie said...

Loooooove your post and LOVE Laurel! What a wonderful person she is in so many ways. She's a true Pioneer Woman in my book. So glad you folks were able to visit her. I'm sure you and the boys brightened her day.

I had the opportunity to be with mom on Veteran's Day and we attended a poignant program honoring the Vets there at Park Vista. Oh my - the stories of bravery and courage from WW2 battles represented in that room - simply breathtaking. Our greatest generation. So glad you're helping the boys connect with and honor our dear ones. Fascinating story about the camp - hope to hear more about it and wondering if the resident at the Manor may have known your relatives. Wow, wow, wow....