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Spokane-themed displays tell stories we all want to hear

SUNDAY, DEC. 19, 2010

It’s natural to want the holidays to be perfect.

Even though, as we all know, real life usually isn’t.

Maybe that’s why some people enjoy collecting and arranging those cheery miniature villages at this time of year. You know, the ones where everything is Christmasy, everyone is happy, and airbrushed nostalgia suffuses the scene like the smell of baking cookies.

In these upbeat model layouts, the contentment and harmony that so often eludes us seems to abide. It’s no wonder they appeal to so many.

Who wouldn’t want to be mayor of Christmastown?

But what if you can’t really relate to a generic tabletop Utopia? Maybe what the Inland Northwest needs is a complete line of locally themed plastic Christmas villages.

More than mere literal representations of specific Spokane area buildings, bridges and homes, these happy holiday collections could be dipped in the magic of the season and yet be, as they say, based on a true story. Your story, perhaps.

Just imagine:

The Lilac Christmas Village

Hotel: Site of the most high-maintenance room service order in Northwest history.

Hospital: Wish you could remember the name of that one nurse. She was so kind to your uncle.

Concert hall: That’s where you saw what’s-his-name and that other one.

Hardware store: Enabling DIY disasters since 1964.

Carrousel: Squeals still echo in your memory.

Grocery store: Once, when you forgot your wallet, the person behind you in line paid for your stuff.

Church: Someone in there is telling the kid playing Joseph in the pageant that he can’t wear a ballcap.

Bridge over the river: A stranger once talked a friend of a friend out of jumping.

Train station: All aboard at 1 a.m.

Burger place: The gulls in the parking lot are ready to tell you what they want for Christmas.

Garbage-inhaling goat sculpture: Suction o’ the season.

A house where Bing lived: Ba ba ba boo.

The ornamental B-52: A parked blast from the past.

Elementary school: There’s a quiet but brilliant girl in there who is going to change everything.

The littlest boarded-up liquor store: That one clerk always used to say, “Same old rooty-tooty?”

Natural foods store: Hey, it’s Spokane. Lots of gas hogs in the parking lot.

That one bookstore: If only you could spend more money there.

Library: What’s more valuable than the people’s access to information?

Bicycle shop: Winter doesn’t last forever.

Convenience store: Pushing the frontier of fake-ID detection.

Park gazebo: How many of the couples who get married there stay married?

Bus station: Some of these people are going somewhere. Some aren’t.

Nondescript government office building: You expected to encounter zombies, but the employees were fast, efficient and good-looking.

Tavern: Enough already about last summer’s softball season.

Clocktower: Is Riverfront Park flipping off the world?

Habitat for Humanity house: Everyone is inside getting ready for Festivus.

Big red wagon: Perfect symbol for a city that’s a great place to raise children, at least when the parents are up to the job.

Pit bulls wearing foam reindeer antlers: They’re ready to open up a can of whup-Xmas.

Parking garage: No, not that one.

Apartment building where most of the residents are on probation: Do you hear what I hear? A gunshot, a gunshot, coming through the wall.

Strip mall: Open until 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

Doughnut joint: Remembering a preschooler who shoved a glazed one into his mouth like John Belushi scarfing that dining hall burger in “Animal House.”

Veterinary office: If animal lovers knew how much unpaid work they do, there would be a testimonial dinner.

Ice rink: Free of bird-droppings for several years now.

Newspaper building: Is that where they store the advertising inserts, Mommy?

College administration building: This is going on your permanent record.

A bungalow festooned with outdoor lights: Inside, calendar-obsessed children in footie pajamas are asking, “Are we there yet?”

The Lake Christmas Village

Cabin inhabited by wintering raccoons: “Hey, look at this stuff they left! Graham crackers! Woo-hoo!”

Cabin inhabited by wintering mice: “That space heater is a fire hazard. But turn it up.”

Cabin inhabited by wintering squirrels: “Hey, get me – I’m all snug in my bed with visions of whatchamacallits dancing in my head.”

Cabin inhabited by wintering marmots: “Go ahead and leave the door open. This place doesn’t have a chimney and Santa needs to be able to get in so he can leave us some goodies.”

The Idaho Christmas Village

Cafe: Ask for the huckleberry eggnog. Or not.

Post office: The line between gossip and news is thin and sometimes hard to discern.

Snow-flocked house at the end of a lane: Home to a hard-working couple who like to laugh and three kids who have been taught that it’s important to think before speaking.

Historical marker: Some white guy came through on his way to somewhere else.

Gas station: Actually, that closed 10 years ago.

General store: Check out their new website.

Split-level on several acres: No, it’s not a compound.

Old barn just outside of town: Could serve as a manger in a pinch, but the guy who owns it is using it to store a couple of boats right now.

And so on. Perhaps you have your own ideas for regionally inspired model-village pieces. The possibilities stretch from here to Montana.

You could toy with reality and place a venerable Spokane department store right next to a conspicuous Coeur d’Alene resort. You could put a courthouse next to a winery.

You could adorn everything with festive little wreaths, sprigs of holly and cotton snow.

But maybe miniature yule towns aren’t for you. That’s OK.

These local collections do have something in common with Christmas spirit, though.

Neither is sold in stores.



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