By HOLLY McLANE
For the Capital Press
It's been years since I've walked the hallowed halls of the Oregon Capitol in Salem, but during a recent family trip there, I realized that not much has changed.
Panty hose are still uncomfortable, the pecking order of legislative members still reminds me of high school, and there are, in fact, times when my FFA immersion in all things parliamentary procedure actually comes in handy.
The Capitol is also still ornate and beautiful, with stories of Oregon and her founders etched on white marble walls, water-color murals that whisper of the heroes who triumphed to tame and populate this rugged land. I tried to teach my kids about their Oregon roots before we departed so they could appreciate things like riding in a heated SUV with power ports, and traversing the Santiam Pass in mere hours instead of spending days in a horse-drawn wagon bumping along the frozen Oregon Trail.
Something about their attitudes before, during and after our journey tells me they might have actually preferred the rigors of a dusty wagon train.
First, let me back up a few weeks to when I began the painstaking and arduous task of finding formal attire for the boys, a dress for myself, and (good lord) something that would cover the midriff of my pre-teen girl. For starters, you probably already know that Central Oregon isn't exactly Armani central. Second, it's next to impossible to get the kids in my house to wear anything but denim and a T-shirt that says "Crook County Football," "Rimrock Volleyball Club" or "Man-Up!"
Meanwhile, I began working overtime to convey to my precious offspring the formal significance of the event we were about to attend and that the people we were going to honor in Salem are important government officials. Not only do they have massive budgets to tackle and trim and important committee hearings to attend but they have to wear dress clothes all day! Every day!
However, despite my knowing that the leaders of our great state deserve the highest honor and respect, there were moments when I would turn to my husband and say, "I'd like to see YOU try to find a suit for our football-playing son whose shoulders are as wide as a door and whose waist is the size of my ankle!"
And furthermore, "I don't even like shopping, unless it's for a new pair of running shoes or Fat Baby boots!" At this point my man would place his hands gently on my shoulders and say, "Your eyes look kind of crazy," which is psychology-speak for stuff needs fixin'!
Nevertheless, the coats, the ties, the shiny shoes and Panty hose were purchased and packed. On swearing-in day we were all up early to allow extra time for any wardrobe malfunctions and, after wolfing down some bagels in the lobby of the hotel, we were off to the Capitol for a long day of pomp and circumstance.
The kids did remarkably well, only tugging at their neckties on a few occasions. They were polite when introduced to others, made eye contact and firmly shook hands like they'd been taught. They listened attentively as the harmonic voices of the youth choir filled the chambers with perfectly pitched song. (And, yes, those kids looked just as uncomfortable in their starched robes as we felt in ours.)
Then we all stood at attention as the state police honor guard in full regalia marched to present the American flag in perfect time and then escort to the podium our newly elected governor -- who was wearing none other than his signature blue jeans.
Holly McLane lives in Powell Butte, Ore., on a 10-acre farm with her husband, Mike McLane, who was recently sworn in as state representative for District 55. They have three children who, like their governor, prefer to wear jeans -- no matter the occasion.