Another Christmas fast approaches, prompting delightful memories of Christmas long past. Oh, the wonderful traditions that filled our days come December 1st! I was one of two girls, older than my sister, and “full of vinegar!” My memories are numerous. Those days it always snowed! Every Christmas was white. We lived in Northeast Portland on the corner juncture of four streets – Alameda Dr., Mason, 20th, and the hill that led down to Sabin grade school. That hill was long and even turned a corner! The sledding was amazing – for both us kids and our tireless parents.
We all knew each other well – as neighbors did in those days. Television was fairly new and radio was our old standby. Tucked in the breakfast nook, finally home from school, my sister and I could hardly wait for the radio to blare forth with: “And Here’s the Cinnamon Bear!” Half an hour of heaven would commence at 4:15pm every school day. It didn’t matter a bit that we knew the story by heart. Every day was a new adventure with Judy, Jimmy, and Paddy O’Cinnamon as they searched for the Silver Star to put on the top of their Christmas tree.
We were properly horrified when the star was stolen by the Crazy Quilt Dragon, who could not resist anything shiny! And then the star ends up in the hands of the Winter Green Witch! You get the picture. Upstairs mom would be wrapping gifts. That presented a real challenge. My sister could leave well enough alone, content to simply wonder what might be in the beautiful packages yet to be placed under the tree. Not me! I would spend hours picking up packages, shaking them, or pressing the wrapping paper so thin I could see through to the box inside. One year I actually unwrapped and rewrapped! That year there were no surprises for me! Of course, I always really wanted a new pet of some sort.
The task of taking my sister and me shopping for mom and dad fell to Aunt Nana and Uncle Bill. We would bundle up and walk from their house to Union Avenue, clutching our “spending money.” The local dime store, all decorated, was better than Tiffany’s to two little girls. When I lost my five-dollar bill, Nana replaced it and kept my secret. She also dried my tears. Then of course, another school day and the race home to find that Judy, Jimmy, and Paddy O’Cinnamon were engaged in a terrible fight with the “Ink A Boo’s!”
Once the weekend arrived, our sleds would come out. The race would be on to conquer the main hill and try to make the turn onto the hill at the bottom for a longer ride!
Somehow, in all of this, we would pick out a tree and haul all the decorations from the attic to the living room. Dad would do the lights and then mom would help us lay on the tinsel and hang the ornaments. Stockings would be hung with great care, and we would begin to dream.
Meanwhile, there was the ongoing radio drama as things went from bad to worse for Jimmy, Judy, and Paddy – who were now seeking help from Santa himself! Christmas transformed the adults in our neighborhood. Every night after we kids were in bed, our parents would eat waffles and use our sleds! One Christmas, disaster struck. The hill was in great form – with lots of packed snow – until Bill Bowes, the then City Commissioner, sent out a truck to completely clear the snow off our hill! He meant well, but the poor man was not ready for the onslaught that followed! The resounding shock didn’t last long. My mother and her closest friend called the City. By 5pm the truck returned with all our snow and Mr. Bowes himself supervised the repacking! That night, I’m sure, the waffles tasted especially good!
It was a sweet time in life when neighborhoods were just that. And Christmas turned adults back into kids. We were there for each other, and waffle parties mattered. A city commissioner went out of his way for a neighborhood and two kids and a cinnamon bear rescued a silver star for the top of a Christmas tree. It was also the year I got a jacket instead of a hamster!