Altamont, Oregon (hometown Christmas)

snowy Hogsback Mountain

My smartphone says I'm in Altamont, Oregon, which isn't, to me, a place at all but a street, as well as the name of my mother's junior high school. Per Google, Altamont is an unincorporated community and census-designated place; I had to double-check that fact with my step-father because nobody ever bothered to mention it when I was young: we all lived in Klamath Falls, city limits or not. In any case, I've been in my hometown for a few days.

The sky on Christmas was big and deep blue, something I miss, living now in the perpetual gray of Portland. Here, the sun shines—or at least used to shine, pre-global warming effects—300 days a year.

handmade fence

snowy Klamath Basin hills
The Christmas snow that once was standard when my grandmother, my mother, and we kids were growing up is temporarily back this year, so the dry, tree-spotted basin hills are blanketed in white. Six feet of snow sits at the top of the pass between Medford and Klamath. Crater Lake is closed, the lodge snowbound. It's in the teens outside.

icy downspout

When I suggested playing outside, my gun-toting youngest brother said snowshoeing is like running up the steepest hill you can find, cross-country skiing is hard on the knees, and sledding requires a sled. My family has never much liked exercise; mostly we just sit and eat and watch movies or play board games.

Jasper kitty

On Christmas Day, my other brother and his girlfriend brought their new kitten, which I had to beg to be let in the house since some were allergic. I handed my sneezing youngest brother a Benadryl. Families focus on the antics of children, but having none of those around, pets will do. We wore the kitten out with a laser pointer, tangling him up in wrapping string. My baby-loving sister was off in the Tetons, having rented a little cabin by herself; she texted that she was having a grand time solo. There has been too much TV and sugar, too little exercise and conversation, as usual.

I'm going to soak in a bath of Epsom salt while they're off at church today. A wide rectangle of skin on my back is peeling and stinging from radiation burn. Seven more treatments to go and I will have "beaten cancer," at least for now, for which I am so, so grateful, despite missing one breast and both ovaries. I am greeting the sun of my childhood in a new way this Christmas.

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