This story begins at the end; our visit to 98-year-old Menomonie native Madame Jean O'Neil. My memories of Jean are limited to a few summer days I spent planting Day Lilies and weeding rose bushes. As an added incentive, over thin mints and milk, Jean would reveal stories of Aunt Dorothy, Grandpa Frank and Uncle Joe, my most cherished elders.
I previously asked Jean how she imagined her life when she was my age. Never once did she dream of a career. She grew up 'taken care of' and assumed "that's just how life was." Once challenged otherwise, she graduated from her home life into that of an English teacher and she is as good at telling stories as she is at writing them. Jean's thesaurus of a mind painted such a moving mental image, her words developed into a spinning stock of super8 film as I imagined Aunt Dorothy's broach refracting the sunlight as she glided across a yard atop her horse, clad in her red suit with young Jean curiously observing nearby.
Stacks of lined paper rested neatly underneath her chair-side lamp; as we were leaving, Marlene asked if she had been writing. Quick to correct, Jean replied, "Write? ... You mean compose." We paused... and mirrored the soft smirk unraveling from the skin of her well-versed lips. "Yes, compose."
So, if you haven't heard, or experienced, my family is eccentric. And wonderful. This is Aunt Cynthia and her beloved Boa, Kaw.
And here he is.. the one and only. Grandpa.
I've always been one of Grandpa's greatest fans, but it wasn't until my recent visit that I learned of his public icon status. He wouldn't ever tell you this himself, but he was the youngest man to ever graduate from Wisconsin Medical School, he once had the largest practice in the state of Wisconsin, and at the latter part of his career, he was voted Wisconsin's Physicians Physician of the year & Citizen's Physician of the Year... how cool is he?
Even cooler, today he's 92 and taking more classes than I am... Particle Physics, Relativity, History of Religion, and Reminiscent Writing. With a wizard of a brain like his, there is no telling where the conversation will wander or what knowledge you'll gain. The treasure of all treasures; Grandpa, I adore you.
On Christmas Eve, Jules and I fell asleep in the bed with baby K cuddled in the middle. I hadn't noticed when Julie woke up and left the room the next morning until I heard the soft exhale of a baby yawning somewhere in the cloud of our quilt. With eyes still shut and arm extended, I felt around until a little baby belly wiggled under my palm. She squeaked to me again, smiled at me wide-eyed, and wrapped her tiny hand around my index finger, kicking her legs to rise... Good morning, Keira - you pure bundle of love, you future partner in crime. Merry Christmas.
And then came Marlene.
Since we're all reflecting on 2014, allow me to express how this German Massachusettian really altered my understanding on my own capacity to live large. It's been less than a year since we were introduced by Paris, but so many of my biggest moments and fondest memories are directly related to or caused by her companionship. So here we were, taking on the Midwest. I knew it was going to be good...
Road trip up the Minnesota North Shore. First stop: Jack Links Outlet.
128 servings of Original Flavor Jacks consumed by three in under 8 hours. We go big. We're not calorie counters, but when pounds of beef are involved, one begins to wonder... 19,250... We're just gonna let that one go. The label must have been wrong...
About 3 hours into the trip, Marlene realized that she had forgotten her passport. It was barely noon and we had to keep going. The day was too young and the lands too fit for exploring to not keep driving North.
The drive was largely propelled by my Thesis project The Vicarious Vials - a three-part series which involves capturing air from difference locations and bottling different parts of the world ... So, say Hey, how are ya to No. 13 / 01.03.15 / 13:01 / 47.7492° N, 90.3331° W. ^^
Maybe it was madness that impelled me to travel. it could have been madness. i used to say it was culture. of course culture sometimes is, or involves, a kind of madness. Maybe it was a lack of love that impelled me to travel. Or an overwhelming abundance of love. Maybe it was madness. ~ Roberto Bolano.
When we arrived in Grand Marais, a friendly State Trooper called Canadian Border Control to tell them of our little predicament... long story short, Canada rules. And we look more trustworthy than previously determined. No passport? No problem.
So... a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead walk into a bar...
During The Wild game, draped in animal carcasses, reeking of dehydrated beef...
And came out with minor bruises.
"What brought you three to Canada?"
"Ever been here before?"
"Where'd you girls stay last night?"
"At a friend's place."
"So you stayed at a friend's place in a place you've never been?"
"How long have you known these friends?"
"A few hours."
"How'd you meet these friends?"
"At a bar."
"And you stayed with them?"
"Did they give you anything?"
"No. We just spent the night."
"Three young ladies decide to drive to Canada, go out, meet some guys, start feelin' pretty comfortable, and you go home with them to just to spend the night?"
"Alright, I'm going to have to ask you to come inside for further questioning."
"So, where'd you get the coats?"