I grew up in the 1970's in northwest Portland, in a middle-class neighborhood sandwiched between the poor and wealthy sides of town. My dad was a longshoreman, belonging to a powerful union that guaranteed our moving-on-up lifestyle. He and my mom had bought on old turn-of-the-century house on Savier street that had been converted into apartments, and we lived in one and rented out the others. Our apartment was around 650 square feet. To get to the bathroom you had to go through the bedroom that my brother and I shared.

I have sweet memories of that house, and I dreamed about it for many years after we moved. The green shag carpeting in the living room, the television with five channels, the old davenport where my dad would stretch out to watch TV every night, the beautiful high windows on which my mom would paint scenes every Christmas copied from Christmas cards, my white iron bed, the turquoise vinyl-covered chest where I kept my collection of barbies, the large square fan on top of my dresser that covered the sound of the television with white noise, the piano crowded into the "den" with a sewing machine, an enormous oak wood desk, a typewriter, a dollhouse, and a five-foot-tall tiki statue that guarded the entrance to my room (which, unbeknownst to my mom, I was afraid of.)

This was where I went reverently, hushed, into my parents' bedroom which felt like a special land with its soft light and their personal things which were to me like treasures. This was where I asked my mom how Santa could get into our house if the stove pipe was sealed off, and where my dad's older son instilled in me fear of scary things in the basement (probably in an attempt to keep me out of his room.) It was where my mom made my tuna fish sandwiches for school lunch, and where she smoked and talked on the phone at the kitchen table, absentmindedly filling in newspaper ad type with a blue ball point pen. It was where I dreamed of monsters on the rickety back porch three stories off the ground, and where the sound of the rain on the metal garbage cans beneath my bedroom window lulled me to sleep. It was where I sat in my room with my head in my hands saying "damn, damn, damn" when my parents had a fight, the first time I'd ever sworn. It was where my mom made cupcakes with little plastic turkeys on top for my classroom celebration of Thanksgiving, and where she let me stay up past my bedtime to watch Ziggy Stardust on late-night television.

The neighborhood was filled with people fascinating to me. There was the family that rented from us who had brown skin and dark hair and exotic names and who let their children run around naked, to my mom's dismay. There was the mysterious woman who I only ever saw glimpses of, who went by the name of Unthank and played violin for the Oregon Symphony. There was the young hipster across the street who wore wire-rim glasses, played banjo in a bluegrass band, and had a pet owl (and who incredibly my conservative blue-collar dad had a friendship with.) There was the family with the house open from front to back, dark and breezy, and who had a table set up just for playing chess.

Most notably, there were Harry & Rose, an old Jewish couple who my parents socialized with regularly. They lived in a wonderfully shabby and filthy house in the industrial area of town. They liked to play bingo and made a career out of scouring the local flea markets for valuable antiques. Harry was small and sprightly, with a tuft of hair on either side of his head and grizzled knotted hands that could fix anything. He was always happy, always funny. He had no children himself, but he loved children, and he paid as much attention to my brother and me as he did to our parents. Maybe more. Harry had an organ he would play old-timey songs on for us. Harry was the only one of everyone I knew who was genuinely interested in my piano playing. He grew a lush garden of vegetables in his backyard that he was very proud of, surrounded by tall warehouse walls. My brother and I one year sang "I'm Just Wild About Harry" to him on his birthday. He was special to us.

Rose was a large woman, with an air of severity and a nasal voice. She did not feel like an unsafe person, but nonetheless she remained vaguely intimidating. She wore her hair clipped short and dyed dark, and she had a large mole on her lip that she covered with shiny red lipstick. Her favorite article of clothing was the house dress. She was the one, of the pair, who would haggle incessantly and tenaciously with sellers, which was both impressive and embarrassing to me. She made my mom her favorite cabbage rolls. We played blackjack with her and Harry, and she was on a mission to convince me that my future was as a blackjack dealer in Reno. Every time we went to their house she would point out to my brother and me that there was candy on the table, little roll-shaped taffies in different flavors and shiny colored wrappers. I could write a book about Harry & Rose.

My friends lived in this neighborhood. There was my friend Judith who lived in a white mansion (or so it seemed to me, in my tiny apartment) and went to Catholic school. She had a subscription to Cricket magazine and her own peach-scented soap and an easel for painting, and her parents took us to the Saturday market in a volkswagen bus. They would take me for night swims in a big dimly-lit indoor pool, and afterwards on their big screened back porch we would sit under a real salon hood dryer to dry our hair.

My friend Annie (Annie-bananie as my dad affectionately referred to her) was pretty and proper, and she did things like ballet and stamp-collecting. Her father was a doctor who played the fiddle and spoke with a german accent, and they lived in a dark, still house nestled into the edge of Forest Park. There was a globe of the world in their study, and a telescope, and books, and instruments of all kinds. The adults left us alone, so it felt like we were the only ones in this quiet house. There was a pretty housekeeper who I later thought her father married, but I could have been mixing things up. She made a cake for my mom one time, out of friendliness, that my mom talked about for years afterward because in her opinion it was inedible owing to the addition of citrus peel. (My mom took cake seriously and was of the Betty Crocker school of thought. Betty Crocker didn't use citrus peel.)

My best friend Cristin's parents were hippie and my dad didn't approve of either her or her parents, I think mainly because she said "Dammit!" a lot, but maybe also because of her joyful wildness (but no matter, because my mom loved her and so did I.) Her father was a professor of Arabic at the local university and they seemed to always be going off to foreign countries. Her mother was busy with community work, and neither of them were ever there. They had strange foods at their house like whole grains and fresh vegetables and carob chips, which meant that I was always hungry there. I traded Cristin a coveted Hershey bar for a little red piece of plastic shaped like a stained glass church window that she had shaped and polished in shop at school, and forever after felt guilty about it (but I didn't give it back to her, and I cherished it for a long time until it was lost.) We sat on her bed and listened to her sister's folk music records and read fantasy and science fiction and talked about philosophy, all of which became livelong loves for me.

There is a big part of me that wants this for my children, the variety of experiences and people that is unique to a wealthy inner city neighborhood. I want to take them back to the scent of the river on a hot day, the low bellowing of the tugboats and barges, the flashes of light off the water, the vivid blue sky. I can't, and not just because the pollution and traffic are insane now. I had a dream about my old neighborhood last night, so this morning I got up and did a search on Zillow for the apartment building we lived in, the one my dad bought on a salary that wasn't much more than my husband's now, adjusted for inflation, which according to the government puts us at poverty level. That building goes now for around $1 million, as do Cristin's and Judith's old houses. Harry & Rose's rickety wood-framed house is gone, having been replaced by a $500,000 condo.

When I saw that my heart broke a little. There is no going back.

Now we live rurally, somewhat isolated (it feels like,) surrounded by farmland conservatives. The little old church across the street where my children like to play has a large framed photograph not of Jesus but of George Bush right inside the front door. Our closest neighbors spank their children and send them to bed at 7:30 every night after having done their chores and homework. Around the corner is a fellow whose yard is filled with old cars and who has a scary dog who barks and barks and barks in the middle of the night. That's what I see and what I don't like.

I wonder what my children will remember and love and maybe wish they could go back to when they're older. Maybe it will be the alley of plum blossom trees, hunting for agates down by the river, the shadowy boat landing, our friends (their Harry & Rose?) who make sculptures out of found objects and collect velvet Jesus paintings and skeleton art and tell ghost stories around the fire pit with colored lights strung haphazardly overhead, climbing trees and playing in rock piles, the fountains along the river, the easy pace of the co-op, the prim white surfaces of the Mennonite bakery, the colorful hedonism of the Oregon Country Fair, the austere formality of the Ki-Aikido training room, their first taste of team sports being the friendliness of ultimate frisbee, selling melons at the farmer's market, a large green tree painted on the wall of a green living room, rainy days drinking tea by the woodstove, days filled with play, and not homework, ever. Maybe their memories will be just as good. I hope.