The weather outside was...unpredictable. (OK, that's a lousy lyric.) This is a truth re: winter weather in the Columbia River Gorge; the residents of White Salmon, Washington weren't expecting eight inches of snow Saturday, but PLOOMPF it fell and gave them the basis for a White Christmas. So Mom and Dad and I didn't drive up the Gorge yesterday as planned, and for a time this morning, we weren't sure if we could make it through the weather today...but Aunt Pat called from there and said "The roads are clear!" So we braved it. Two hours driving up, four hours of visiting with family, two hours getting back through Portland (and the rain, by that point) to Mom and Dad's place in Dundee. And we're all happily tired now.
And yes, the roads were clear all the way to the Paulsen's driveway, and the snow there wasn't enough to stop us. We then entered the home, greeting seven human family members and two dog ones: my mom's sister Pat Paulsen ("not the one running for President," she used to say), her husband Bill, their daughter Meg from Seattle, Meg's American Eskimo dog Jasmine (who looks like the dogs on this page Google was kind enough to find), the younger Paulsen sibling Rob, his wife Birgitte, their two kids Markus and Amalia (age six-almost-seven and one-and-a-half, respectively), and Pat and Bill's senior dog Norm. He's named for Norman Schwarzkopf, which tells you about when Pat and Bill got him...
So we started visiting. And it started snowing. Thickly. Thick enough that we talked for about one minute about what to do if it really started snowing and snowed us in, which actually would've been do-able if we Walshes didn't mind sleeping in odd places, but which stopped being an issue when it stopped snowing and temps stayed above freezing.
The Paulsen house is a bright, open, airy and warm place. Adding to its neatness: Rob Paulsen himself designed it. It was his first major architectural job, and it was a good one. The family still has his 1994 model of the home, with a third-story tower (what I recall a family member dubbing "the Waco tower," which tells you something of our sense of humor) giving a view south towards Mt. Hood. The place has flair. People who've been interested in hiring Rob have driven over to see it. Not that his current clients are likely to do that: he and his family live in Copenhagen, Denmark, where he's part of a very busy architectural firm. This is the Denmark Paulsen's second trip to the U.S. this year, to show off Amalia (pronounced "Uh-MAY-lee-uh"), who's a treat. She's often kind of a serious kid, and she's very attentive. Aunt Pat nicknamed her "She Who Watches." She's also healthy and effervescent and, now, walking. "She started about three weeks ago," Rob said in his now Danish-accented, slightly gutteral English. "Before that, she'd walked, but thought we were behind her holding her up. She didn't believe she was walking." She's accepted her walking ability and gone on. And she showed signs of a sense of humor, too, so she's not all serious, and speaking as someone who was a pretty serious kid, I'm glad to see that.
Markus is, or at least can be, a goof. At one point when he didn't want his picture taken, he rolled his eyes up. "Don't do that," one of the adults said; "You have beautiful eyes. The blue parts more than the white parts." When Markus kept doing it, another adult said, "That's not normal." "It's normal for a zombie," I whispered to Rob (low enough that I hope the kids didn't hear), and Rob chuckled. When Markus isn't doing that, he's a handsome boy, and he's also energetic. Birgitte and Markus and I went out in the snow to toss an American football around, and to play something which vaguely resembled the sport where one uses such a ball. He whined about a finger hurting, but then was acting all better after running around and making a touchdown. "The healing power of football!" I proclaimed.
We ate heartily as well: a very thick nacho that's a family favorite, then cheesecake for dessert. I explained my job (and some of the current nuttiness of it) to the assembled family members, Dad told Navy stories (good, because my hospital stories have a distinct lack of jet planes in them), and many other conversations took place. Afterwards, Rob and I played with Legos for Amalia's benefit, most of the women thronged around a Christmas-tree puzzle and made good progress on assembling it, and several of us darted in and out of the TV room to see the status of a few football games.
All this was enough to wear me out; I stretched out on a couch for most of the last chunk of the visit, getting my arm licked by Jasmine and petting Norm when he mosied by. Because it's just past Solstice with those very early sunsets, we Walshes got going a little after 3 o'clock, and braved rain for most of the rest of the trip. We made one stop on the way back, to get supermarket deli sandwich fixin's -- special turkey, pepperjack cheese, Tabasco-tinged mustard -- that we fixed into sandwiches for a real basic dinner. The rolls we used were amusingly round. "I have a sandwich ball," I said. Dinner tomorrow: prime rib. We shall make good use of meat for Christmas.