I recently took a short trip to Hutchinson, Minnesota to visit my sister and her family.  My mom lived there the last few years before she died. I hadn’t been there all winter, and, in some ways, it now felt like a new place.

It’s actually starting to feel normal to be in this pretty, rural town without my mom – which is weird. As I drove down Highway 7, I didn’t have the urge to turn north and go to her house with the dandelions in the yard. It’s like the sky turned green two years ago when she died. For a long time, I was shocked by its color. But now I’d be surprised if it was blue again.

In a way this is good, I’m adjusting to reality. In another way, it’s sad. It feels like having her around was a long time ago. While it hurt like crazy, there was something nice about having her alive so recently.

Getting to Know Hutchinson

I got to know Hutchinson pretty well in the last months of her life. She had moved there after retiring to be near my sister’s family and “hang out” (as she put it) with her young grandson. I had visited her many times but hadn’t become familiar with the town. I would go to her house or my sister’s and that was pretty much it.

That winter, I ran errands and figured out where things were: the bank, pharmacy, grocery store, library, etc. I also went on a lot of walks and found some gorgeous, tree-lined streets with graceful homes. I discovered a nearby sledding hill with kids laughing and screaming while their dads watched, their hands shoved in their pockets and shoulders hunched up near their ears, exhaling freezing air that looked like smoke.

During those walks, everything was white and frozen. Now the trees, bushes and grass are bursting with green. It was a cold beauty then and now it’s warm and welcoming – filled with optimism for the summer ahead and life’s next chapter.

Finding the Grocery Store?

On my recent visit, I was going to pick up some raisins and bananas at the grocery store before breakfast. I knew the area well. When my mom was failing, I bought some winter boots nearby for an unexpected blizzard. Across the street was the gym I joined for a month, but never used. An elderly, petite woman walked through the parking lot toward the store entrance. That could have been my mom, but she never got that old.

CashWise is a warehouse grocery store where you bag your own groceries. It’s red and white inside. It’s not pretty, but it gets the job done. The last time I remember being there, I was looking for organic peaches and pears for my mom. She was having a hard time eating but thought some canned fruit would do the trick. She specifically wanted it to be organic. At the time, I thought her request was silly, given that she was near the end of her life, but I tried to find what she wanted.

I thought I was just fine (just fine!) being at the store, but when a Christopher Cross song came on over the loudspeakers, I almost started crying.

But life goes on and there is plenty of joy to be had now that the sky is green.  My two-year-old nephew has many different ways of saying “yeah!” each with increasing enthusiasm. A good night’s sleep is still a gift from God. I get to play tennis and feel like a kid at recess. My husband and dog love me dearly. I don’t have my mom to talk to anymore, but I have the world’s best girlfriends and thankfully, they like to talk.

All of this can sit cozily next to each other, side by side. I’m grateful for that. I miss the chapter that’s over, but I also enjoy the one that’s unfolding now. I’m curious about what will be on the next page.