Pioneer Square at Christmas, 2014
Attended a HSCO workshop - Human Services Coalition - on Wednesday which gave me an excuse to walk around downtown Portland after the meeting. Took MAX then jumped off at Pioneer Square Mall, then walked over to Macys to see the Christmas kid's area - "recon" for our grand daughter! Santa, trains, reindeers - what's not to like? The city is the place to be on the holidays not some cookie cutter mall. Had a fun 2 hours - then home to the burbs.
A brief trip down the Holiday's memory lane for Lavanya Sophia Dondero -
I was born in Seattle in 1942 so my first memories of Christmas are from our family home on 2007 Brandon Street on Beacon Hill. As an only child I remember listening on my 45 RPM record player to all the favorites of the season but what sticks out even today is Spike Jones' "My Two Front Teeth."
My most wanted gift at that time which Santa delivered was a Fort Apache set which I still have remnants of devoted to infra-structure on my electric train empire. I also talked to the main man at Seattle's Frederick & Nelson's store, got the pictures to prove it, Miss L.
But the best present of all time was my first American Flyer train set which Santa brought me when we lived for a year, 1948, in down town San Francisco. It was a steam loco, PRR - Pacific with 4 cars. Over the years I've managed to add to it somehow by magic.
In 1951 my Dad was transferred again to San Francisco from Seattle and we lived in Palo Alto on Middlefield Drive. Christmas in Palo Alto was amazing because despite no snow everyone in the area we lived in decorated their homes! I've never seen such splendor on such a scale ever!
We moved to Roseburg in 1952 and by then Christmas was more of an annual ritual more memorable because of Christmas music heard in church and because my mother was a singer in the local Messiah Choir. I've always loved The Messiah, a legacy for classical music from my mother and piano teacher!
But I do remember our first Christmas getting another Gilbert product besides my American Flyer trains - the chemical set. I managed to stink up the house with some foul concoction one day. Fun, fun, fun. My career as a budding scientist came to an end.
Sadly, my most enduring memories of Roseburg at that time - 1952-60 - was the annual flooding of the South Umpua River. We never got flooded out but our home my Dad built in the Melrose area was marooned like an island and we had to jack the furniture up every Christmas - just in case!
My Dad's marriage in 1963 to my step mother, Edie (Edith) brought much more wonderful memories of her beautiful home decked out with the holiday spirit - the classic Nobel Fir and all the trimmings. That continued after Ann and I returned to Oregon from 5 years in Pennsylvania.
The best story from that era was going with Dad, Edie, Ann and Tony (2 years old) with the camera club to cut our own Christmas tree in the Umpqua National Forest 40 miles east from Roseburg. I'll never forget my Dad throwing a cut tree into drifted snow when a US Forest Service officer checked for permits!
Of course starting married life in Minnesota with Ann, 1966-69 in St Paul one always had snow, lots of it and stone cold 20 to 20- degree weather from November to March. We eventually went "native" by getting into the spirit of St Paul's Winter Festival. My on my!
One Christmas Dad and Edie sent us a Nobel Fir all the way from Oregon! Wow - what a gift - a "real" tree not some shriveled version from a local tree lot. And then there was the Christmas I ended up in the U of Minnesota hospital with what they thought was TB but turned out to be just a bad flu bug!
By 1969 we were off to Pennsylvania where I taught at Dickinson College in Carlise, PA - a picture post card New England like town 30 miles north of Gettyburgh. Our first Chritmas there we got snowed in but managed to drive to DC despite drifting snow and white out conditions - foolhardy youth!
Marion, sister Judy, Ann and I ended the holiday on New Year's Eve in NYNY. NYNY is magical during the holiday season! If only I could have gotten Ann to Time Square! My first experience there was in 1963 as a Alfred Sloan Scholar from Whitman at Thanksgiving - the Pacific northwest kid in the big city.
Over our years in Carlisle from 1969-74 we spent several holidays with Jewish friends from St. Paul days window shopping at local antique stores and then driving to DC to enjoy the big city - the French Market in Georgetown and often ending the night at the National Cathedral, an ironic place for non-believers!
Living in Oregon from 1974 on - Christmas has been a traditional time with our two sons and Grandma Marion, Ann's mother with one memorable trip to Roseburg with Dad and Edie, Nancy, Clyde and Diane. Sister Judy and Marion extended their stay due to a car malfunction. I had to get back to work!
The family tradition which has been passed down to Jason and Lavanya is cutting the annual Christmas tree at Christmas Trees West just a mile from our home in the Grove. Due to my asthma we've given up the tree but Jason keeps the family tradition going.
When Marion was with us and now with Lavanya my most vivid memories are the sight of the tree on Christmas eve night with all the presents surrounding it - opening to the next day was anti-climactic and we managed to make it a day long affair - why hurry!
Of course, having grandmother Marion and Ann doing their magic act with the turkey and trimmings was the real highlight of the day. And is our tradition we didn't sit down to dinner until at least early evening. And the rest of the week until New Years was spent eating left overs, yummy!
But best Christmas memories of all are watching Lavanya open her presents on Christmas Day. I'll never forget as a 8 month old how fascinated she was over a Kleenex tissue pack and its crinkling sound! Now her gift expectations are more tailored to the latest toys!
As a grandpa I enjoy watching Lavanya's eyes light up at Christmas time - actually all year long - that's the best present ever! The circle of life comes back to what Christmas is all about - seeing the season though the eyes of a child and hoping it lasts all year long!
So my visit to Macy's the other night brought me full circle.