Going home

Sometimes the best trip is going home.

Last weekend I visited my home town of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin (yes, I am a proud cheesehead) for a concert. When my mom died in 2005 my dad made a memorial gift to the Beaver Dam Area Orchestra and each spring they present the Eunice Noltner memorial spring concert.

We arrived early. That’s my dad’s style, so there was plenty of time before the music began. I hadn’t really studied a photo of my mom for a while and as I flipped through the program I settled on her image on page three.

She encouraged me to dream.

My mom was bad with a map but was always eager to see what was around the next bend in the trail. As a child, if I tired from a long hike, she would hold my hand as I closed my eyes and counted steps, trying to guess which landmark I would reach after 100, 500, or 1,000 steps.

She was a good citizen, but couldn’t resist feeding the animals. I’ve got old photos of her with birds in her hand and chipmunks on her lap. She’d smile as she hiked in the rain and laugh out loud as it turned to hail. She would spend all day flipping rocks on the beach looking for crabs. And she’d do it all in the 50-cent tennies she’d pick up at garage sales.

We didn’t take fancy trips, we took long ones. A normal summer included the pop-up trailer and a few weeks on the road, carefully navigating around the big cities and setting up camp in national parks. We hiked because it was free, and because she believed you had to work to get to the good stuff.

I think of her every time I take travel photos and I hear her telling me not to take so many pictures. “Film’s not cheap!” she’d say “But you are,” my teenage attitude would mutter under my breath. And then she’d turn around and gasp, “Oh, but look at that…you have to take a picture!”

She planted a wanderer’s seed in my soul. I used to think it could be satisfied or tamed, but I’ve learned over time that it can’t. I like it that way, and I suspect she would too.

2 thoughts

  1. Your mom was also generous and kind. I have a corner of my yard that is the “Eunice Noltner” memorial garden. She saw me digging and offered me plants!

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