To most people, Portlandia is just a quirky show poking at the oddities of Portland, Oregon. I have to admit, “put a bird on it” and “the dream of the 90’s is alive in Portland” are genius and crack me up every time I see them but most of it is beyond me. We live in a small town East of the city and trips there are rare.
Where I may not frequent Portland these days, being born and raised in this great state I am very aware of who “Portlandia” really is. In the midst of downtown in a rather modest location sits the second largest hammered copper statue in the United States, right behind the Statue of Liberty. At 34 feet 10 inches tall a woman holding a trident reaches down to the people below her. Portlandia was modeled after the city’s seal which also boasts a woman holding a trident.
The trident is known to be the weapon of Poseidon, the God of the seas, and Neptune, the God of freshwater and the sea. As a city that was once known to be the number one place in the western hemisphere for “crimping” and “shanghaiing” amongst the sea captains and sailors, a city that’s known for it’s beautiful bridges spanning the river, a city that boasts the amazing dragon boat races, has a waterfront walkway that hosts festivals – bike riders – walkers – runners – fountains and those just gazing at it’s beauty and a city who’s access to the water make it an easy port for transportation of goods; once known as one of the most dangerous ports in the world; it seems only fitting that it has a protector in Portlandia watching over the city.
With so much action on the water it was only a matter of time before it hosted it’s own Mermaid parade. On July 30th Una the Mermaid & the travelling Fanta-Sea Cove organized Portlandia’s first annual Mermaid Parade.
Those familiar with us can only imagine the excitement in my household upon hearing this news, those new to us, let me explain.
My beautiful daughter was born with a rare genetic skin disease called Linear Epidermal Nevus. It’s complicated, it comes with a laundry list of potential complications including skeletal, ocular and nervous system abnormalities. Has the potential to cause both benign and malignant tumors, raises the risk of melanoma, and in our case, may potentially take over the entire left side of her body. At first we were devastated, plagued by the “what if’s” and lost due to the lack of information and medical knowledge surrounding her disease. Over time we found some support groups and started this blog to share our journey and connect with the world to both learn from them, and share what we know. It’s hard to explain to a child what’s slowly growing on their body, we joked that her “scales” were from her previous life as a fish. A friend said to us, can’t you find something better? Like a Mermaid? and it stuck. From that moment on she became Mommy’s Mermaid. As she has gotten older she has told strangers, doctors, friends and family about her Mermaid scales, she whole-heartedly believes that they were a gift from a Mermaid. She believes they are a special and wears them proudly.
An opportunity to take her somewhere full of Mermaid’s, those magical creatures that shared their beauty with her, to walk amongst them and relate, could not be passed up. I had no idea what to expect, I thought it would be small, generic, cute but nothing to write home about. I could not have been more wrong. I know now, that I need to start preparing for next years event! Mermaid could barely contain herself as we got ready, Mama are we leaving yet? Mama, are we ready? Mama, can we pleeeeaaaaasssseee go now. As if she knew just how special it was going to be.
We were blessed to have a friend and her little one in tow with us, with the girls in wagons we headed to the historical waterfront, the friendship circle to be exact. The friendship circle celebrates the sister city relationship between Portland and Sapporo, Japan. The Friendship Circle includes a pair of 20-foot stainless towers that generate electronic tones. I can only describe it as nothing shy of magical. Men, Women and children of all shapes, sizes, and ethnicity filled the gorgeous backdrop of Portland in full costume. There were people giving out gifts, bubbles, shells, dancers, birds, artists and even a man fishing for Mermaids with a cat on his line.
We flipped down waterfront passed Saturday Market and the Brewfest. People lined the path taking pictures, videos and cheered. After the parade we took some time to enjoy the city and played in the fountains!
We get caught up in the daily grind, I often forget to take moments to stop and truly let myself enjoy the beauty of imagination. Mermaid’s disease will be with us forever, there is no cure, very little relief for symptoms, and at this time – minimal research or trials to move in a forward direction. If allowing my 3 year-old to believe that she was gifted her scales by a Mermaid gives her even one small ounce of happiness in this journey, I will believe it too.
To the amazing group that made this dream a reality, to every single person that came to celebrate and to our honorary Mermaid’s Geneva and Charlee for walking this path with us, I thank you all. This parade meant so much to us. As magical as I saw it, I can only imagine what my little girls thoughts were.
There are no words to describe the beauty and creativity that was bestowed upon us that day but thanks to the talented Christelle Morgan who has graciously allowed me to share some of her work, you can enjoy some of the sites from our day. Enjoy!
You can find more information about the wonderful Christelle and her work at: