By Michelle Gress
Every few years, as part of America’s diplomatic corps, our family goes through an international move. It involves a lot of chaos so we place tremendous value in maintaining general order and routine for family stability in the midst of all that. But a few summers ago, we threw the usual rules out the window. We’ll never regret it.
That summer, our family was moving back to the States and we traveled to Portland, Oregon, for a long visit with beloved family and friends. The days were full of crazy fun at outdoor concerts, spontaneous cookouts, and long mirthful dinner gatherings. The weather was glorious, and almost every night the fun lasted very, very late.
Our tired family would return to our hotel room, put the “do not disturb” sign on the door, and sleep late, usually past breakfast. And not by a little. This was a hilariously radical departure from any normal routine for our then 1, 3, 5 and 7 year-old kids. It felt a little crazy. Our kids loved it, and we loved it.
Portland is a crazy place, characterized by nonconformity, a city with a slogan that says “Keep Portland Weird.” So we have come to call the kind of crazy and carefree rules-out-the-window approach, “Portland Rules.” Acknowledging the Portland Rules somehow makes it easier to just let go of the normal routine in favor of enjoying the oh-so-fleeting time with friends.
Since that first summer of “Portland Rules,” we are once more preparing for our move back to the States. These bittersweet weeks leading up to our departure (and departures of many of our ex-pat friends) are full of goodbye parties, lingering farewell lunches, endless spontaneous play dates, and weeknight cookouts that go far too late for a school night. But the higher good here is friendship and love. It’s all worth it.
This unusual ex-pat lifestyle has firmly taught us that the limited time we have with those we love is always too short; we’re going to savor every moment. Routine will come soon enough. Bring on the “Portland Rules” of summer!