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Roots and Branches: Exhibit moves, past stays

I am often struck by how much the past continues to influence the future, and how important it is to be aware of that connection in our day-to-day lives.

Saturday started off with a rousing game of basketball among 10- and 11-year-old girls. We focused on how our granddaughter Aunika and her BFF Gracie Guertin were playing, sometimes missing what the rest of the team was doing because our children had our complete attention. When that happens you miss the opportunity to cheer the rest of the girls’ accomplishments, regardless of the team they represent.

The gym was filled with a gaggle of girls doing their best to dribble, pass and shoot the basketball. The fact that they were fairly evenly matched helped to keep feelings from getting hurt. Some of the girls were speedy, others were skilled dribblers and a few could sink a basket. We saw an offense and a defense, and I am pretty sure I saw them execute an actual “play.” Most of the parents were still applauding the new skills the girls were demonstrating, a spectator skill that needs to be demonstrated as often as possible in this highly competitive era.

Sadly that spirit of cheering on all the players’ accomplishments, regardless of the team for which they are playing, seems to fade with each passing year. Winning becomes the primary goal. Fewer children are able to participate competitively and many lose interest in just playing the game for fun and exercise.

Our children deserve the support that intramural and community education activities can provide throughout their young lives. They can enjoy the game for what it is: a game where they are learning new skills that help them grow stronger, healthier and happier. As spectators we can cheer them all on rather than point out their deficiencies, balancing the positive spirit of competition with the spirit of enjoyment that comes from acquiring new skills.

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Fifty years ago I blew out my knee high jumping while trying to break the high school record of (drum roll please) 4 feet, using the now prehistoric scissor jump method. As I lamented my track season end without winning the competition, let alone setting a school record, my dad asked me a couple of questions that put it all in perspective. “How often would I need my knees to function? How important was it to set a record that would most surely be broken as soon as others perfected the Fosbury Flop? And was I pleased (not proud) of what I had mastered to date? I could privately value my personal achievements without being a record-setter.

Years later, when I was battling the competitive gene that must have been passed to my oldest son, I received similar counsel from neighbor Don Walker. My husband and I were ardent football fans, following Corey’s high school football seasons to the state level, reveling in his success. He was an excellent athlete in the “headline” sports, baseball and football.

But when the football season was over he decided to learn how to golf his senior year. In case anyone is unaware, golf is not a spectator sport by any stretch of the imagination at the high school level. What would we do without his baseball season? Don Walker reminded me that playing golf was for Corey, not for us. Why shouldn’t he just have fun while learning a new activity that he could participate in for the rest of his life? Sometimes we need a refresher course on lessons learned.

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After the game we headed across the Columbia to prowl through the aisles of an antique store called Antiques and Oddities. I am a fan of repurposing old furniture, first out of necessity and later because I learned that some old things were made better and had more character than newer models. Nothing old or odd enough caught my eye, other than my husband of 44 years who agreed to prowl the aisles with me and then, even more uncharacteristically, agreed to stop at The History Museum of Hood River County to see the exhibit “What If Heroes Were Not Welcome Home?”

What a delight. From beginning to end, the museum was a great walk-through. Volunteers Debbie Chenoweth and Judy Judd got us headed in the right direction.

The roots of our lives are enmeshed in the fruit industry exhibits from fruit labels to packing crates. My husband’s roots in the Japanese immigrant story and mine in the Finnish families that settled on the west side of the valley. As I moved through the museum I found pictures of my dad, Sulo Annala, in the Crag Rat section. The ever-familiar bamboo ski poles, Crag Rat shirt and wooden skis that I have in my home, featured beautifully in the exhibit.

But it is the Crag Rat commitment to serving others that is most evident in the lines of my father’s face and the set of his chin. I can see that same commitment to service in my husband’s face, that of our children and their children. It is a legacy worth passing on to future generations.

As we passed through the Heroes exhibit I was pleased that it kindles thought, introspection as well as conversation about war, peace, heroes and acts of prejudice. The question is personal: What would you do in this time, under these conditions? You must examine your own values and actions, rather than look outward to others for answers.

A familiar voice caught my attention, flooding me with memories of conversations at my kitchen table drinking coffee with Sho Endow and absorbing his stories of life in Hood River, military service, family and life after World War II. It was emotionally moving to hear his voice and Mam Noji’s, and to see the uniform of George Akiyama, a symbol of all who served in the military defending our freedom. Their entire lives were lived in service to others, not just the chapter illustrated in this exhibit. And ultimately that service prevailed in changing attitudes, discrimination and deep-seated prejudice.

I hope others will go visit the museum before Feb. 26 when this exhibit moves on to other communities, to continue the introspection and conversations that echo off our valley walls. Will they be lessons learned, or history simply left to repeat itself?

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