Friday, July 06, 2007

Last Night’s Ceremonies

We have a tradition in our family that on the last day of our summer vacation, we celebrate with the “last night’s ceremonies.” This goes way back to my time as a child when the family, Mom, Dad, and sisters Sigrid and Mary, would travel to a place called Point O’Woods (POW) near South Lyme, Connecticut. The annual vacation was almost always during the last two weeks of August and always at POW.

The last night ceremonies were not preplanned and generally consisted of a special cookout dinner and maybe a fire in the fireplace. In those days, the trip to the Connecticut shore from New York City was an arduous one. Schlepping three small kids was probably not a joy, and the 3-8 hour drive likely shortened both my parents’ lives.

To us, the summer vacation was a magical experience. There were new clothes to wear, new toys and activities and of course the beach which the whole family loved and where we spent many happy hours during the two week sojourn.

So it was not surprising when sister Mary suggested that we go out for a special dinner on my last night in Portland. We were to go to a restaurant called Macaroni Grill and be joined by one of Mary’s good friends and co-workers Kirsten.

The last day in Portland was rather low-keyed. Mary had a dentist appointment at 10:30 and while she was there, I brought her new Toyota in for its first oil change. Some how Mary has only accumulated 4,000 miles on an automobile she bought in December. My matching Toyota, which I purchased in August, already has about 18K on it.

Anyway, I found the “Expresso Lube” just up the block from the dentist office and pulled in. Now, I’ve been to a lot of “jiffy-lube” type places over the year, and the one back home that I have frequented the most is pretty nice, but this one was unbelievable. It probably does not come as a surprise to some of you – maybe you have figured it out from the name – but this lube place has an espresso bar in the waiting area. So while, Mary’s car was enjoying a oil change, John was enjoying a blueberry muffin and fine coffee. Also, unlike any lube place I’ve been to before, this one had a gift shop and free wi-fi.

After the oil change and Mary’s dental appointment, we had lunch and then headed down to Mary’s pool for a refreshing afternoon in the water. The temperature was in the high eighties, but the air out here is very dry, particularly in the afternoon. I know that old nugget about “dry heat,” but indeed it was still rather comfortable. We pretty much had the use of the pool to ourselves, although a few other residents of the development came and left.

At around three we left and I returned to my hotel for a quick shower and to get dressed for the special evening.

Returning at 4:30, Mary’s friend had already arrived and we were soon on our way to the Macaroni Grill. The restaurant is located in Hillsboro, a suburb of Portland, just west of Mary’s location. This a trendy area with lots of modern shops and restaurants located in small urban-like streets. The layout was described as “very California” with the whole area taking on the feel of a small town.

The Macaroni Grill was nice and the food was very good. The waiter, who looked about 12 years old, was a bit too attentive and seemed to hover in at all the wrong times. This is apparently a very busy place so perhaps they were trying to move us in an out swiftly before the onslaught. I think we finished dinner in less than an hour.

The ladies and I then went to Bed, Bath and Beyond so I could buy a travel pillow for the return voyage and when had some laughs at a party shop next door. But the real fun of the evening was yet to come.

When Mary was sick and in the hospital a few weeks ago, I filled up a goodie bag and mailed it to her to assist in her recovery. One of the “presents” was the SpongeBob Squarepants Monopoly Game. So this evening – in true last night’s ceremonies style - a wild and intense game of SBS Monopoly would take place with lots of inappropriate silliness, screaming and laughter ("Treasure Chest!!!!"). It is always good to end a vacation with lots of laughter.

For the past five nights I have been staying at the Homewood Suites near Mary’s house. This has been a very luxurious experience with a suite with two bedrooms, kitchen and living room. Mary has stocked the kitchen with food and drink and I have only put a small dent in the supplies. As part of my final night in Portland, Mary comes over to stays. It’s been a warm day – in many ways – and tomorrow, the 4th of July, is supposed to be very hot with temps in the 90s. Mary and I enjoy the comfort of the air conditioned space and not having to make beds in the morning.

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