Editor's column: Thoughts on miles and years gone byRecently my mother and I went on a road trip, visiting her cousins in South Dakota. If you know me, you know I always have a camera.
Recently my mother and I went on a road trip, visiting her cousins in South Dakota. If you know me, you know I always have a camera.
We took a drive outside of Vermillion, S.D., where there is a big blimp or mound, in the middle of the prairie, named Spirit Mound. My mother told me that her mother had taught in a one-room schoolhouse near Spirit Mound.
As we were driving, I would stop the car and take photos.
“Now you will have something to write about for your paper,” said my mom’s second cousin Cheri, who lives in Vermillion, and who sat in the front passenger seat so she could navigate.
“Oh, no, I won’t,” I thought to myself. “How can I preach one thing to my columnists and reporters and not do it myself?”
One of the ways I make the Budgeteer special for our readers is by making sure everything has a local tie. And by that I mean a hyper-local tie. My goal as editor is for all stories to have a connection to our circulation area of Duluth, Proctor and Hermantown.
But one of the things I also know is that people like to hear what the editor has to say.
Mom likes to talk about her relatives, something I remember her doing since I was a small child. She keeps close tabs on her kin, even if she hasn’t visited them in a while.
At 5-foot-1, she says she didn’t know she was short until she was 50. And she didn’t know she was old until she was 82, which was this summer when the heat really bothered her.
It’s hard for me to watch my mother age. She was always so full of energy, stylish and so pretty with her dark brown hair. In a world of Scandinavians with their blond hair, she always wanted a dark-haired baby, but instead she got a girl who was blond as a child, and a boy whose hair was a reddish light-brown that bleached blond in the summer.
I tell people if they see a dark-haired woman who looks like me, it’s my mother, but I forget that her hair is white now. I still think of her as a young mother: pretty, full of spirit and strong.
She is still pretty, but she is no longer stronger than I. I first had to slow down for her when I was 30 and she was 60. We were walking in Seattle, where I lived at the time. It was a shock for me.
When she was 65, I phoned her in a panic because my car was stuck in my unpaved driveway in the Red River gumbo of Grand Forks. At the time I was working in social services and I had an appointment to drive a disabled man to the dentist. So I phoned my mom and she came right over and we worked together to get that car out of mud. I don’t remember what we finally did to get the car out, but I know it involved a lot of physical effort.
All my life I’ve wondered why people make fun of growing old. Why does mainstream America make fun of age? With
any luck, we will all grow old; it is surely better than the alternative. People who make fun of little old ladies forget that those same women were young, vibrant women at one time.
Depending on their age, they might have been flappers or suffragettes. They might have worked for things that you take for granted in your everyday life.
I see people — strangers — treat my mom differently, without respect, because they think she is just an old lady. It hurts.
My mother’s older cousin showed me
a cartoon in which a young person was taunting an older gentleman about the Internet, cell phones and other modern devices. “Who do you think invented all of that for your generation?” the older man asked. “And just what are you doing for the generation after you?”
I think of my grandmother, teaching in a one-room schoolhouse on the prairie. I think of my great-grandparents who homesteaded on the prairie 20 miles from Spirit Mound. And I think of the Native Americans and other races that were, and still are, affected by all of my relatives.
Tears well up in my mom’s eyes when she looks at the prairie landscapes painted by Harvey Dunn. Dunn was born on a homestead in South Dakota and had a successful career in illustration on the East Coast during and after World War I, but people such as my mother love him for his landscapes of the hard life on the prairie.
We need to remember that all generations and all peoples have a landmark that is spiritual to them. And we need to respect and learn from the generation before us.