“A Short Life, but a Merry One, Eh, Lads and Lassies” – review by Shannon Milliman – Portland mom and PDX reader
The Milliman 7 Pirates and Fairies and Their Grand Adventures aboard the Portland Spirit and Their Meeting of Her Royal Majesty, Queen Melissa
Who knew a teapot could be fashioned from a meteor and that it might also prefer cats and dogs? I am still pondering my son’s question of why a blue heron is called a “blue” heron when it looks pretty black to him. An image of a windy, pastoral place with golden stewed leaves in the old land Cafe, now China brews in my mind. What, you might ask has caused me such diverse mental tangents? Why, a lovely opening day Queen Melissa Tea cruise aboard the Portland Spirit gliding along the Willamette River with Her Majesty, Queen Melissa and a delightful crew of pirates, buccaneers and fairies.
The anticipation of the event affected my five wee ones – ages 9, 8, 6, 3 and 22 months in curiously, different ways.
Rainbow, age three, has been pondering this illusive meeting of the Queen for weeks. Questions abounded – where was she queen of? Was she a REAL queen? Would she know her name? Will she change her clothes? Certainly all measures that mark a fair assessment of authentic royalty. My son, Moses, age eight (as of yesterday) was initially less than thrilled at what sounded like a girly adventure to him (don’t worry, he came around), spotted the bold white ship with sapphire trim as we crossed the Hawthorne bridge from the muggy view of our Trimet bus window. His biggest concern? “Whoever is steering that thing better be good or we’ll crash!” Adrianna, age six, smoothed her cotton frock and batted her eyes dreamily as she gingerly stepped aboard the Portland Spirit riverboat cruise to meet the Grand Queen Melissa and simultaneously christened her first entrance aboard a real ship. Sunny, age nine, shook hands with the Captain and beamed as if she had just found a forgotten bag of Halloween candy. She’d crafted her travel suit with intent and gusto as smartly noted by a midriff tied sash around her pea coat. It was in this light I detected she might also have sneaked into my lipstick collection for this special occasion. I got the vibe right off that these kids’ preparation and accompanying enthusiasm about a trip down imagination river was a perfect match for this particular cabin crew who put forth a little more effort to welcome aboard a smaller clientele with a naturally more inquisitive, less inhibited air about them.
Phineas, 22 months, a certifiable “Momma’s Boy” kangaroo-d around with me as we were guided to our table. His eyes and slobbery chin glistened as bright as the Willamette River’s reflection. After enjoying thirds on the fresh, warm biscotti with crystalline sugar, he was warming up to the adventure. Plus he popped a sugar cube all by himself into his watered down cranberry apple tea (don’t judge me until you bring five children under the age of ten aboard an enclosed space surrounded by water for the afternoon).
Fat and happy like an English king, Phineas reclined into my arms as the elegant and much anticipated Queen entered the room. With my brick overcoat of adult resistance, I wasn’t particularly moved by her understated, soft-spoken graces, personally expecting a little more pomp and circumstance. But rest assured every child who still believed in Peter Pan had mouths to the floor. The kids, dressed in their best from mini-tuxedos to cool shades and airy gowns with sparkly shoes, tip-toed to sit at the Queen’s feet.
New friends shared pirate songs, and I fear “yo,ho, ho” might inevitably be a phrase that doesn’t escape the Milliman household for many moons. The children created metaphors and shared impromptu original stories of their dreams and travel hopes, as well as made-up folklore of the unique teapots at each table. Such community and sharing struck a chord with me, happy that this crew understood children’s complex abilities to be creative. Gleeful outbursts such as “There’s even cream for our tea!” became the pattern of the day. We all delighted in the details – from the fairies sparkling in gossamery tulle seamed from nothing other than pixie dust, to the attention paid to face painting requests – perfectly executed masterpieces on palettes of rosy, wind-whipped cheeks.
As a Momma Dearest, the things I found most endearing about their cruise were subtle yet meaningful. Calling my budding flowers by their names, swift and compassionate wiping of spilled lemon water bumbled by a certain pirate lad- with the staff quick with a story to ease what might have been a bit of shame for his carelessness. Instead he was awed with an enthralling story of Jon Sobieski of Poland, Muslim armies and the pope’s rallying of army troops and the subsequent celebratory French bakers and their rolls made in the shape of the Muslim crosses. The dainty Earl of Sandwiches and fruit platters looked exquisite and alluring in color and arrangement. Every attention given to our table was kind, helpful and felt as if our enjoyment was of royal importance.
Captain Taffy was my personal favorite with his anecdotes and endless founts of trivia. He was a Benson Bubbler of world travel knowledge that couldn’t be contained. We learned to say ‘strawberry’ in Japanese and Spanish. Pirate legends Bartholomew Roberts and his half billion fortune felt like old friends, Blackheart Roberts confiscation of 400 ships and even our own treasure hunt convinced me maybe I had pirate blood myself. Upon being capped with an official pirate hat and accepting his lollipop reward and elaborate certificate, Moses found himself surrounded by an admiring, stunning group of late teenage ladies who perhaps found a pillager with blond curls and smart suit all too tempting. Ultimately causing him to determine being eight years old, apparently a real man now, has its embarrassing drawbacks. He definitely preferred the etiquette and restraint of the Queen over this amorous crowd. In a dejavu moment, I recalled my first sighting of another young man, a few years older but with corresponding curly locks, a suspicious spitting image, rebellious smile and plans of being a rock and roll star. Alas, one girl will be so lucky again one day.
I couldn’t help but consider aboard this vessel how quickly my children are intersecting milestones and finding their way in this world. As Portland rolled by, I took space to breath slowly and introspectively – seeing the very framework where all this growing and learning has occurred. The riverside, like a timeline, reminded me of days we have shared, places that made a difference in our lives, and places I have yet to experience charging me with a childlike desire to see more, to prefer the deck where I could close my eyes and inhale cold air. To do more and to live a little more free, to embrace a little more imagination and to believe just like my children who open-heartedly accept and savor such an afternoon with a real Queen and a real land of possibility.
What meant even more about this unique excursion were the lingering thoughts we are all still holding onto. My husband’s chest swelling when he heard a lovely rendition of “Oh Danny Boy” that reminded him of his late Grandfather who was forever changed from going off to war. Feeling a kinship to history, learning of the Ross Family that homesteaded on an island I have seen a hundred times. The imagination continued all evening as my three year old daughter, Rainbow, insisted I be Queen Melissa as she climbed a tree in our backyard pretending to be a monkey, while Queen Melissa picked weeds below and relived all the glorious moments aboard the Portland Spirit that day. My apologies to the Queen for getting her nails dirty, but take courage that a little girl with perfect brightness of hope will remember you for a very long time.
Shannon and her family were given tickets for the Queen Melissa Tea Cruise on behalf of PDX Kids Calendar for review.