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Going Rogue (Valley) after 55 years

“Mom! You’re what? Moving? Medford? OREGON!”

It was Mother’s Day and my three sons were incredulous. I bought a house in Medford June 1 and moved in July 20.

It took a measly 55 years to get here. My Rogue Valley dreams started in the summer of 1963. My friend Becky (an only child) and I had just wrapped up seventh grade at Nellie N. Coffman Jr. High in Palm Springs, California. Her parents said she could invite a friend for their annual summer vacation to visit her grandmother in Medford, and Becky picked me.

My mother said, “No, you’re not going anywhere.”

My dad, as usual, vetoed my mother, and a week later I was in the car with Becky and her parents driving north from the California desert to paradise, Southern Oregon, far away from the heat of the desert, the humidity of our swamp cooler, and a house full of annoying brothers and sisters.

Medford was magic: 1,000 miles from being the middle child, that crummy black-and-white TV, an obnoxious older brother who taunted, teased and tortured me, and a swimming pool inhospitable to humans until the blistering sun went down behind the mountains.

I was in Oregon! We went to Crater Lake, where the water matched the sky. We picked blackberries. I caught a fish in the Rogue River. I felt like Anne of Green Gables. I could be outdoors without passing out and/or throwing up.

I had enrolled in summer school before eighth grade — six weeks of typing and Spanish from 8 until noon. After the first day, I waited in the pizza-oven, three-digit-degree heat for my mom to pick me up and fainted — fell onto the searing blacktop like a pre-teen rock.

Heat stroke. That was the first and last day of summer school.

With nothing to do until September, I was the perfect friend for Becky to invite. It was the most exhilarating summer of my chaotic, neurotic childhood. Two best friends spending a whole month together laughing, exploring, dabbing calamine lotion on our mosquito bites. Her grandma was a sweet, tiny, rosy-cheeked woman, and I adored her. She lived in a Craftsman house filled with antiques and was an incredible cook.

“Becky, ask your little Jewish friend if she’d like another biscuit.” “Becky, your little Jewish friend did a lovely job setting the table.” “Becky, your little Jewish friend has very good manners.” Becky and I would laugh ‘til we ached.

Her parents said, “Mom! She has a name!” Grandma had no clue why Becky and I were giggling, so she’d chuckle, too, then stop and ask us, “Girls, remind me why we’re laughing?”

Happy Medford memories are tucked away in my hippocampus forever. I’m thrilled to live here in Shangri-La — I mean Medford. My boys are men, now. They can visit me whenever they want. I’ve got a guest room and two sleeper couches. I’m home.

Lisa Medway lives in Medford.

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