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The Middle of Nowhere

August 4, 2009

My family took a little trip west from Minnesota last week to stop in my mom’s hometown and to stop in mine.  Text messages were sent on a stop through the city in which I spent my first two years of college, and my friends who had seen my mother’s facebook status updates (yeah, not only does she have facebook, but my friends are friends with her. yay?) were emailing and calling and texting me asking, “are you coming too?” or exclaiming, “I wish you were coming too!” It’s a trip I always tried to make once we moved from Montana, the drive down I-94 to stop and see friends and make it back for the county fair and rodeo at the beginning of every August, not because the fair is really so exciting but because if you want to go home and see people, that’s where you’re going to see them, because that’s when everyone comes back.  Is it the cowboys?  Is it the indian tacos?  Is it Diamond Rio?  Is it the hottest weekend of the entire Montana summer?  Nah.  It’s the dust and the karaoke in the beer garden and the people you get to reconnect with and find yourself getting along with better than ever before.

I really wish I could be there.

So my parents trekked west to do the more adult, grown-up, Let’s Sit At the Pella Lutheran Booth and Eat Pie version of that weekend, but on the way they stopped in another wonderful place, a place I can’t describe quite so well but I think this picture might give you an idea:


And I called my mother one morning to say hello and to ask a question, and as we were talking, I suddenly heard a voice screeching “Hiiiiiiiiiiii Couuuuuuuuuuuurtneyyyyyyy!” over my mom’s.  And I laughed and asked who it was.

“Oh, that’s you’re aunt Carole,” she said as she tried to continue the conversation.

Then I heard another voice.

“Hiiiiiiiiiiii Couuuuuuuuuuuurtneyyyyyyy!”

“And that was Laura.”

“Hiiiiiiiiiiii Couuuuuuuuuuuurtneyyyyyyy!”

“And that was Janet.”

I laughed again. “Tell them ‘Hiiiiiiiiiii Family!”

There, in the house my mother grew up in, were my aunts, invading my mother’s personal space to say “Hiiiiiiiiiiii” to me as obnoxiously and lovingly as they could.

Invading personal face space to interrupt phone calls and say hello to the person on the other end?  Something I’ve been known to do.  I guess I come by it naturally.

The family gatherings at my grandmother’s house can get a little miserable sometimes, because there are nine children in that family and even though the house is bigger than it was way back when, some of those kids have kids of their own.  You know how it goes.  It gets full, and even though not all of us sleep there, we all end up there at the same time for dinner and random lounging and talking and sometimes discussions get heated and there’s nowhere to hide from it all because there are people EVERYWHERE.

But look at it from the outside like I’ve had no choice but to do this time around and I realize how lucky all of us are to be able to crowd into a tiny house in a town that’s slowly but surely fading away and just be with each other.  We wander down to the bowling alley to eat hamburgers, to the house next door for coffee and ice cream at 9:30 am, into antique shops where the lady behind the counter was my mom’s second grade teacher and oh, does she have stories to tell! or just to sit on the freshly painted swing in the backyard watching the clothes hang on the line, drying in the breeze.  The kitchen always smells like caramel rolls and clean laundry.  The table in the dining room is always surrounded by mismatched chairs and the fading senior pictures of my mom and her brothers and sisters all hang behind it in one matted frame.

That house is as much a home to me now as that house in Montana used to be.  It’s the house I’ve known, have been connected to the longest, and it’s always full of people who I love in a way I could never love anybody else.

I called my mother to ask some trivial question that really hadn’t even needed an immediate answer.

But I guess I called when I did for a reason.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. fbg permalink
    August 4, 2009 9:16 am

    Wow. That’s an awesome description; I sort of felt like I was there.

    But what’s that about Diamond Rio? They’re one of my all-time favorite country acts; are they from the area?

  2. cari permalink
    August 4, 2009 11:09 am

    ok. so i’m a total dork and i actually teared up reading this. because i know how wonderful it is to have a place like that, the whole small town thing and you go to the fair to see everyone and stuff. i just love that.

    and besides, who doesn’t love having family yelling ‘hi’ to you when you’re on the phone? i know that it certainly doesn’t bother me. :)

  3. August 7, 2009 8:20 pm

    awwww….I loved this (BTW, it was my third grade teacher and she was in the shop again when Janet and I stopped in!)

  4. Bobbie permalink
    August 7, 2009 9:20 pm

    A couple more things that always make me happy when we visit NE:

    The AMAZING desserts the ladies at the church make; strolling up and down the halls of the school that our parents went to and how amazingly time hasn’t really changed.

    The who knows how many cases of beer were downed because of the, oh, maybe 30 or so people crowded into that little house and then trying to make your way into the tiny kitchen to TRY to get something to eat.

    The one thing that will never be the same: grandpa making sure nobody ever had an empty beer.

    Love ya cuz! Wish you could have been there! :o)

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