Traveling with Mom

I have always admired my mom.

She is loving, kind, beautiful and selfless.

She puts her family first. She has steadfast faith. She’s super healthy (she exercises and eats all her fruits and veggies – every day). She speaks her mind – even if it’s silly – and I love her for it.

And, I may be biased, but she gives the best hugs in the world.


It’s been a few years since I lived back at the farm and worked with her and my dad. I’m grateful that they have never been the type of parents to interfere and fight my battles for me. While they are present and cheer me on through life, they do so from a distance and let me experience success and failure on my own. And I know they will always support me, even if we disagree.

Age and life experience don’t change the fact that your mom will always be your mom. I feel so grateful that I can still call her up to talk, share a funny video online or take a short drive to visit her any time I want. I know this isn’t the case for everyone, as some relationships are splintered, separated by distance or stuck in time due to mental or physical loss.

This realization really hit me during a trip I took with my mom up north for a nature and birding festival earlier this month.


I know she was understandably bummed that her sister, a snowbird, wasn’t yet back in town for us to bring our dog along and stay at her place. Although we have traveled together before, it has been awhile since we weren’t distracted by pets and relatives. This time it was just us in nature, and I’m glad. It made me remember all the things I love about her.

On the drive, we listened to music and talked off and on. Mom spoke and journaled about her idyllic childhood summers up north with her three older siblings and parents, who were teachers in Watertown and ran a resort in St. Germain. We snacked (carrots, hummus, popcorn). Sometimes we sat in comfortable silence.

When we got to our cabin, it was cold. Really cold. Mom couldn’t remember the last time she had to start the fireplace in May. I knew we wouldn’t be able to make a fire outside that night, but I was still determined to roast marshmallows … even if the ones in the cabinet were expired and stuck together. Since we didn’t have graham crackers, I put them in my hot cocoa instead. We read, listened to oldies on the radio and played a game of scrabble.

Since we were only going to be at the cabin two nights during our trip, we conserved laundry and heat by sharing a bed (full disclosure: my mom snores). It prepped me for the rest of the trip since we ended up sharing again in our little motel room in Ashland to save a few bucks.

But what we saved on a room and eating egg salad sandwiches every day for lunch, we spent on meals at night. We ate very well, and even splurged on wine (for mom) and stout (for me). We enjoyed fresh trout and whitefish from Lake Superior at some of the best restaurants in the area: 2nd Street Bistro and Good Thyme (we ironically had the same waitress at each place) and Deep Water Grille (try their pineapple coleslaw with the Friday night fish fry).

I also forgot how early my mom gets up in the morning. She even bought a portable DVD player just so she could still do her workout videos. Now that’s dedication. Since most of our excursions left the visitor center around 5-6 a.m., it’s a good thing one of us had our wits.


My mom makes me smile.

Sometimes it accompanies an eye roll when I say something and it prompts her to jump into a corny song I’ve never heard of. Other times it follows a hearty laugh.

On this trip in particular, it happened in other ordinary moments.

When we broke away from our group (temporarily) to see a snowy owl.

When we felt proud that we could identify the call of an ovenbird, even when the birders around us could pick out a black and white warbler from a black-throated green warbler by sound.

When we had a lengthy discussion about fanny packs.

When we were “those people” at restaurants who had to order gluten- and dairy-free meals. And later, when we felt no shame in buying a dark chocolate bar that we could actually both enjoy for dessert.

When we stood guard for each other in the woods when we had to pee.

When I woke up from a nap to see the bottom of my jeans rinsed and hung up to dry, instead of inside out on the floor by my suitcase where I was content with leaving them after our muddy walk.


When she offered her shoulder as a pillow so I could take a nap on the boat ride to Stockton Island.

When she let me spaz out after spotting a black spider on my shirt.

When she didn’t complain or flinch when I woke her up and expected her to remove a tick from my hair. (A thorough tick check for both of us followed.)

When she didn’t force me to eat out of the guacamole container that an inchworm had just been crawling in, even though she was totally fine with it.


Photo by Carol Christian

When she didn’t judge me for putting eight goopy marshmallows on a skewer and later had to throw the rest of my massive s’more into the fire when I had too much.

When we spent over an hour on Fawn Lake trying to get a good picture of a green heron.

When she was learning to use my camera and held down the shutter, taking hundreds of pictures in just a few minutes of an eagle and buffleheads, while I rowed the boat on Big St. Germain Lake. And later when I saw that she took some great shots!


Photo by Carol Christian


Photo by Carol Christian


Photo by Carol Christian

When she really wanted to get a picture of our favorite fishing spot by the log in the channel.


Photo by Carol Christian

When she said some of the best nature sights she’s experienced up north have been with me. Years ago, we saw a doe and fawns chasing each other by Lake Content and a mink along St. Germain River.

2006-09-4_lakecontent-fawns stgermainriver_mink

When I saw her in her element, quietly reflecting the beauty around her.


When she thanked me for taking this trip with her and asked if we could do it again next year.

When she smiles.

2015-05-15_bird_penokee-cmcI love you, Mom. Thanks for being you.


For more about our trip:

Day 1: Sea Caves and Morgan Falls and St. Peter’s Dome

Day 2: Penokee Mountains and Copper Falls

Day 3: Stockton Island


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