We were anxiously watching news reports during that time about Mt. St. Helens. This active volcano had been rumbling since March 15th, signaling that an eruption might be eminent. It was certainly due for another. A bulge started showing on the north slope of the mountain, growing larger over the next two months. The big eruption was on May 18th, 1980. The ash from that first eruption blew east, but subsequent eruptions also spewed ash that often came our way. This was a huge inconvenience for everyone. We finally had a car but couldn’t drive in the ash because it would clog the air filter in our car and scrape our windshield if we tried to use our wipers while it was falling. We had to wear masks to avoid breathing the ash. It was a very fine silica, like ground glass, that could give you coal miner’s disease if taken into the lungs. We couldn’t use painter’s masks because they weren’t enough to filter the ash. We had to have the next grade with the foam filters in them. I took the filter out of one and fashioned a tiny mask for Justin, who was just over a year old. We also had to go out a hose it down to create a thick mud then shovel it into large trash bags for the city to pick up.
The other inconvenience was in going to Saturday Market. We never knew when the next eruption would be, and there were doomsday prophets everywhere downtown holding up signs proclaiming the end of the world had come and we should all repent before it was too late. Being downtown was no longer much fun. A lot of the stalls were closed, and a lot of the buskers had moved on to greener, and less ashy, pastures. Our neighborhood was changing, too. The folks on one side of us, Patty and Jim, were thinking about moving to the coast. They had a community of friends in Tillamook County and were going to join them. We were no longer feeling as settled and getting itchy for another move ourselves, but Jessie would soon be starting school.
She started Kindergarten that fall, already reading. The school wouldn’t let her read in Kindergarten and had a policy of not having younger children go into older classrooms for advanced learning. I hadn’t taught her to read. She had learned it on her own. Her dad and I constantly read to both kids from the time they were born, and one day, Jessie read a cereal box to me. I couldn’t believe it and thought it was a fluke at first. We went to the library and got out some books I had never read to her before, and sure enough, she could read. I kept up with her learning at home, encouraging her advanced reading while the school continued to discourage it. Needless to say, I was not happy with the school system.
The other change for Jessie was meeting new friends. Paul and I were pot smokers and had cautioned her not to say anything to others about it. We explained that it was illegal, and that we could get into trouble. The first week she was in school, she came home and informed me whose parents smoked and whose didn’t. She had polled all of her new friends so that she could make an informed decision about who was safe to talk to about it. Ugh! The other issue we had happened the first time she had an afterschool playdate. At our house, we only ate whole foods, no sugar and mostly vegetarian. Her friend’s mother had offered them cookies and Kool-Aid for an afterschool snack. Jessie refused, knowing that I wouldn’t approve then came home in tears because she didn’t have a snack. I quickly explained that the rules in our house around food were just for our house, and when she was away, she could use her own discretion.
Coincidentally, Patty and Jim had another friend who had a house in Hebo, Oregon, not far from where they would be living, that he wanted to rent out while he went off traveling. Before we knew it, we were moving again. The house was right at the corner of Rt. 22 and 101, a major intersection. We lived next door to the Hebo Inn, known for the two n’s being backwards. It was a nice house, a little too big for us, but it was nice to spread out after living in such small places before. And, there was a little hobbit room upstairs that Jessie thought was very magical. It was a full-sized ceiling, but the door was half-sized, so you had to duck way down to enter. We also had another great yard with a river running on the side. The elementary school, where Jessie would continue Kindergarten, was less than a block away. It had a wood furnace that we didn’t have to use much at all and was a short drive from the ocean.
The move itself was very stressful. We had accumulated furniture, household goods, clothes and toys and had a Plymouth to move with. We couldn’t afford to rent a truck. Luckily, Amber came to help with her VW bus. She was still learning to drive a stick shift, so she asked me to drive. I was so thankful that Paul had taken both kids with him because we encountered a severe rain storm while crossing over the coastal mountain range, and Amber’s bus had broken windshield wipers. It’s amazing we made it in one piece. It was yet another example of trusting the universe to keep us safe. And we did make it safely. We settled in, got Jessie enrolled in school and soon started hosting a weekly Open Mic at a local café in Pacific City, right on the coast.