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Ask my husband about the hazards of marrying a PK, and he’s likely to tell you, “Be ready to drive off the highway at any inopportune moment.”

You see, growing up as a preacher’s kid, I lived in five states. Marv was born and raised on the same farm. So by the time we met the first day of college, I was ahead, so to speak, 5 to 1.

He’s always known where he’s from; I never have. When people ask, I say, “All over. I was a preacher’s kid, and we moved every few years.” Which, as you can imagine, has put me at severe risk of repeated identity crises. These crises force me, and consequently us, on side trips if we’re anywhere near my former homes. The lure of renewing pieces of my identity puzzle pulls like gravity on my emotions.

It happened again over the week end. We were invited to a wedding party in southern Indiana. Marv told me early on he’d like to leave the day before to see some farm on the way. I chalk up farm visits as you can take the boy off the farm but you can’t ever take the farm out of the boy. I don’t consider that an identity crisis. In fact, I think it just affirms his strong identity with cows and pigs, corn and soybeans.

At Fair Oaks Farms

Right at home at Fair Oaks Farms

So, while he got map directions to Fair Oaks Farms, just off I-65 in Indiana, an extravaganza place where they breed cows and pigs (and where they sell dreamy creamy butter pecan  ice cream), I planned what I had to see along the way.

I lived in Lafayette, Indiana, from third grade through seventh.  Before I opened my mouth from gazing at the Atlas, Marv said, “Don’t think we’re going to Lafayette again.”

“Of course not,” I said. “You told me last summer you’d never go again, and I’d for sure not mention it again.”

An askance look from him told me he doesn’t trust me. I replied something about looking for some covered bridges, because I saw there were dozens in Indiana.

We managed to find one, but that's another story!

We managed to find one, but that’s another story!

What I didn’t tell him until after the farm visit was that Turkey Run State Park was right off the highway. I remembered going there when we lived in Lafayette. I had a picture somewhere of my mother wearing a suit while climbing a ladder on one of their trails. And that made me want to go back to see if I remembered the place.

My mother, Tess Hoitenga, around 1954. I never saw my mother wearing slacks, even though she lived until the age 95.

My mother, Tess Hoitenga, around 1954.

“You’re sure it’s right off the highway?” Marv asked.

“It’s looks like it on the map,”  I bluffed with confidence.

What seemed like ten miles off the highway, Marv asked again if the park even existed. Seems we were running on empty and there were no gas stations in the miles of farmland.

Not wanting to be stranded in a corn maze, I got nervous. “Oh, I’m sure it’s just ahead.” Of course, I was sure of nothing. The park didn’t even exist on the large print Atlas we have in the car.

To jump ahead, there was one gas station in the next long stretch before we found the park, so I got lucky there. Marv paid a seven dollar entry fee and parked by an Inn where I browsed for trail information, finding two trails that had ladders.

Marv lagged behind while I, determined to find my mother’s ladder of sixty years ago, headed out on one of the trails that featured a ladder.

It looked safe!

It looked safe!

Not a good idea. First, there were many wooden steps. Clutching the railing, I took one step at a time. Then I reached a downward slope of dirt over rocks. I saw myself slipping on the smooth dirt, crashing down on my hips—cracking one or both, and hollering out in pain for Marv to call an ambulance.

Fighting that vision, I gingerly felt my footing and eased down about six feet to a level area. With my pulse booming and my armpits pouring water, I decided I would never make it to any ladder. Not with sandals on, anyway.

So, when Marv caught up with me, I said, “This is far enough. Just take a picture of me, so I will remember that I’ve been here.”

Goal achieved--a few minutes in the rustling  woods for a pine-drenched reverie with my mother!

Goal achieved–a few minutes in the rustling woods in a peaceful reverie with my mother!

I know the look he gave me because I’ve learned, after fifty years, to read his mind: So we drove a total of forty miles out of the way ($$$$ gas) and spent seven dollars to spend twenty minutes in this park just to take a photo?

Yes, I nodded. To me it was time not measured in dollars or miles. I relived my mother wearing a suit on that ladder. I felt her sense of adventure, her fearlessness, and in those few minutes, enveloped by those fresh-smelling woods above a rippling stream, I felt proud to have known her. I felt the power of her role modeling life for me.

I remembered I never saw her in slacks. She died at 95 in 1998. Times have changed.

Thanks for the memories...

Thanks for the memories…