Alison Lurie

Alison Lurie

A weeklong electronic journal.
Aug. 19 1997 3:30 AM

Alison Lurie

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       In Hood River, Ore., visiting my son Jeremy Bishop, his wife Cammy, and their two-and-a-half-year-old, Wells. Their house, which they helped build, looks over the Columbia River, where windsurfers skim over the water like light, elegant, impossibly speedy water bugs. Hood River is a famous center for windsurfers: There is almost always a strong wind, and in the summer the town is full of cars and ATVs with surfboards on top. It's also popular with skiers: The lifts on Mount Hood run until Labor Day (yes, there is still snow up there) and start up again in November.
       In the afternoon we went to an antique-auto show, where I was overcome with nostalgia to see a wood-sided station wagon of the sort that I used to ride in at summer camp in the New York Catskills on the way to swim in a place called High Rocks that I've never been able to find again. Suddenly I was back there, in a car full of noisy kids singing at the top of their lungs: "The Animals Came in One by One," and "Who Put the Overalls in Mrs. Murphy's Chowder?" Where are these children now?
Jeremy was very interested in the sports cars, because he's just bought a 1973 Saab Sonett. I'd never heard of this vehicle, but apparently it has its fans all over the world, some of whom he has "met" through the Internet. The car appealed to him especially because it has a fiberglass body, and when he was working for a sailboard company in Hood River he learnt a lot about this material. It "needs a lot of work," including a new transmission and a new windshield and bumpers, and of course a paint job--but as I understand it this is one of the attractions of the classic sports car. Another charm of this car is that it is half Swedish and half Italian--made in Sweden but with an Italian designer. Clearly, I said, its name should be Isabella Rossellini.
       My daughter-in-law Cammy is becoming an aromatherapist. She can create blends of aromas to suit her clients, calming or energizing, suitable for a meeting of old friends or a bout of insomnia. On Saturday for the first time her products, in attractive dark-blue spray bottles, were on sale at the local Farmers' Market. To celebrate her first sales she bought a pair of dangling earrings and three exotic purple and white dahlias. I wish I'd done something of the sort when I sold my first story.
       My grandson Wells' favorite toy is a train set based on the British children's classic Thomas the Tank Engine. Jeremy and Cammy pointed out that the engines are all male, while the passenger cars have girls' names. The only excuse for this is that the original books were published a long time ago--but what strikes me most is that when I was reading them to my own kids I never noticed.

Alison Lurie is a novelist and a professor of English at Cornell University.