The Christmas Gingerbread Castle (and kind thoughts about Peoria, AZ)
We live in the city of Peoria, Arizona. I used to not like Peoria all that much. Now, I’ve changed my mind. With a population of just under 150,000, it’s not like it’s a teensy town. But, it sort of has that feel to it.
Today, we went to Peoria City Hall today to drop of our submission into the 2008 Gingerbread House contest. Oddly, perhaps, my boys really like going to City Hall. Mostly, it has to do with the ginormous, half-underground fountain — you’d have to see it to understand its scope and uniqueness — which they enjoy running around. Plus, the courtyard is a really great space, with a huge copper sculpture, lots of trees, planters, places to sit, and room to run. Granted, I remind them that it’s a place of business and not a playground. But, the noise from the fountain pretty much out-shouts even the loudest of boys, so it’s not like they have to be whispery-quiet.
So, with Ethan giving Audrey a piggy-back ride, Grant pushing Fiala in the stroller, me pulling a wagon on which rested the very heavy gingerbread castle, and Wesley trailing behind (ostensibly keeping an eye on our constructed cookie confection), we rolled into City Hall. We paused outside the entry doors because a) Fiala was crying, and b) I had to remove a couple of supports — rubber bands and pins — I had left on the castle while traveling. A city employee came outside, thinking we were heading for the other entrance, and said, “You should use this door because it opens automatically.” Not, “OMG! A crying baby, four rowdy kids and a mother!! Bar the doors!” Inside, the city receptionist, a truly kind and helpful lady named Blanca, said, “Don’t you enter the contest every year?” I replied, “Last year was our first time.” She said, “Didn’t you win last year?” which the boys enthusiastically confirmed.
It’s those sorts of interactions that makes me like Peoria. “You wanna go where everybody knows your name,” right? Blanca didn’t quite remember our names; I didn’t expect her to. But, she did remember us from last year. I thought that was cool. She also gave me a map of the municipal complex, showing me where there was a rather hidden back parking lot which is much closer to the City Hall building than the one we used. I thanked her for her thoughtfulness, but didn’t tell her we’d probably always take the long way, so as to enjoy the fountain and courtyard.
There were definitely fewer gingerbread houses than last year, though perhaps most everyone rushes theirs in at the deadline; we were five hours “early.” There are four categories, and we were the first for ours, the “group” category. I told the boys, “Well, I’m sure all the school groups will be bringing theirs in after school.” And the receptionists both said, “Oh, no. With budget cuts, we weren’t able to help after-school programs participate this year.” That made me sad… but Grant saw it differently, “Maybe that means we could win first, second, and third prize this year!” That sort of thought encapsulates Grant’s logic, completely. On one hand, it makes perfect sense. On the other hand, it’s easy for pretty much everyone besides Grant to understand that that scenario is extremely unlikely. We all laughed at Grant’s hopefulness, but he was really serious.
And, um, do I have pictures? No, I do not. My camera is still missing. And since, my countertops are strewn with 48+ hours’ worth of neglectfulness, whilst we were working hard on the gingerbread castle, my kitchen would have provided a less-than-attractive backdrop for the castle. So, my plan was to use my phone and take photos in the City Hall courtyard where the light is good, and where there are no piled-up dishes in the background. But, I forgot. (Or, as we’ve been saying, since Audrey says it, “I got-for.”) We’ll get it back in a couple of weeks, after it’s been picked on and breathed on by strangers.
Tomorrow night, they’ll hand out award for the gingerbread houses at Peoria’s tree-lighting ceremony. Last year, we made the mistake of thinking that meant that they were going to light a tree. Turns out the whole thing is a Very Big Deal, with tons of activities and vendors, school choirs, a petting zoo, (of course) pictures with Santa, free crafts for kids, 20 tons of snow trucked in, etc. Additionally, several city buildings in old town are opened — last year, we got a cool pic of our family in the historic two-celled, adobe-walled jail. And, several churches have “open houses” with carolling and hot cocoa. We thought we were just going to pull up, find a parking spot, and saunter up for our prize (Blanca had called in advance to tell us that our house took first prize). Instead, it took a good 30 minutes to find a place to park, and to fight the crowds in the streets which had been closed to traffic, and we almost missed receiving our ribbon; they were announcing our names, literally, when we ran, puffing, up to where the awards were being given.
Probably next week, I’ll write another gingerbread post, and have pictures to show, too. 🙂